Egypt, Late Dynastic to Ptolemaic Period, ca. 664 to 30 BCE. A beautiful example of a hand-carved cedar mummy mask with fine graining visible throughout. The serene countenance is defined by narrow eyes beneath plateaued brows, a slender nose with flared nostrils, pursed lips with indented corners, rounded cheeks, a tapered chin, and tab-shaped ears, all beneath a tall headdress with projecting corners that sits low on the smooth forehead. Layers of white gesso cover most surfaces of the face and headdress, and traces of pale yellow and black pigment can be seen on the obverse. Three original dowels remain within the dowel holes on the headdress and chin, and these exemplify how masks like this example were attached to the head of a mummy. Size: 8.25" W x 10.3" H (21 cm x 26.2 cm); 15.1" H (38.4 cm) on included custom stand.
The mask was an essential part of the mummy, placed over the head to provide an idealized image of the deceased as they would be resurrected. This mask and others like it were traditionally carved from cedar. Interestingly, cedar wood was not native to Egypt. Egypt did not have verdant forests filled with tall trees, and unfortunately most of its native lumber was of relatively poor quality. So, they relied on importing to acquire hardwoods - ebony imported from Africa, cedar and pine from Lebanon. One fabulous obelisk inscription by Thutmose III attests to the luxury of treasured hardwoods. It reads as follows, "They brought to me the choicest products . . . consisting of cedar, juniper and of meru wood . . . all the good sweet woods of God's Land." (Obelisk inscription by Thutmose III - J. H. Breasted, Ancient Records of Egypt, Part Two, p. 321)
Provenance: private J.H. collection, Beaverton, Oregon, USA, acquired in the early 2000s; ex-Edgar L. Owen, Ltd., Lake Hopatcong, New Jersey, USA
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