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Egyptian Wood & Painted Gesso Funerary Bed Model

lot 0001A
Estimate $2,000 - $3,000Dec 05, 2019
Lot 0001A


Ancient Egypt, Middle Kingdom period, 11th to 12th Dynasty, ca. 2130 to 1802 BCE. A wonderful example of a hand-carved wooden funerary bed model meant to be attached to a model funerary boat. The slender rectangular bed has a shallow recess along the top meant to hold a model 'body' and rests atop four slender lion legs with rounded paws. The bed and legs are covered in a thin layer of white gesso that is painted with yellow pigment that has darkened over time into a soft brown hue. Size: 5.2" L x 1.1" W x 2.6" H (13.2 cm x 2.8 cm x 6.6 cm); 2.9" H (7.4 cm) on included custom stand.

The funerary boat is a traditional Egyptian tomb offering created to symbolize the transport of a deceased individual from life to the afterlife. Scholars believe that the Egyptians envisioned death as a journey via boat across the Nile River - the sacred river which ran down the center of the country and was respected as a resource of agriculture, trade, transport, and a symbol of fertility. During the Sixth Dynasty, it became common to place wooden models of lifelike scenes in Egyptian tombs; by the Middle Kingdom, they were placed in the tomb chamber, around the coffin, although some very rich tombs had a separate chamber just for wooden models. Wooden funerary beds like this example accompanied most of the boat models since it was customary to display the body of the deceased on the boat while the funerary procession was progressing along the waterways of the Nile.

For a stylistically similar example of a funerary bed atop a wooden model funerary boat from the Middle Kingdom, please see The Metropolitan Museum of Art, accession number 12.183.3.

Provenance: private J.H. collection, Beaverton, Oregon, USA, acquired around 2009

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All four legs reattached to bed, with light adhesive residue along break lines. Desiccation and fissures to original gesso, with darkening and fading to pigmentation, and light encrustations. Nice earthen deposits throughout. Old information label on display stand.

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