Egypt, Romano-Egyptian period, ca. 1st to 2nd century CE. A wonderful hollow-molded plaster mummy mask for a crocodile, perhaps meant as an offering to Sobek, the crocodile-headed god of fertility and the Nile River. The mask bears characteristic reptilian features such as an elongated snout with a rounded muzzle, recessed nostrils, circular eyes within recessed sockets, and a smooth brow. Dark russet-red pigment illustrates several areas of the mask including the gnashing teeth, nostrils, eyes and lashes, and triangular marking centered on the forehead. Masks like this example were created when mummifying a certain type of animal - in this case a crocodile - and imprints of the original linen lining are still visible within the hollow interior. Size: 15.125" L x 9.75" W x 7.2" H (38.4 cm x 24.8 cm x 18.3 cm)
The crocodile was, and still is, one of the most awe-inspiring creatures in the animal kingdom. The ancient Egyptians both feared and revered crocodiles for their stealthy nature as well as their ferocious killing capabilities. According to scholar Dorothea Arnold, "Although the ancient Egyptians somewhat whimsically called the crocodile 'wrinkle face,' without a doubt these reptiles were the most dangerous creatures of their country and a constant threat to the people and their livestock" (Arnold, Dorothea. "An Egyptian Bestiary." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, Spring 1995, Vol. LII, no. 4, p. 32). Concurrently in regards to the crocodile-headed god Sobek, Egyptologist Garry J. Shaw explains that, "As a god, [Sobek] was associated with the riverbanks and the marshland, and in some sources the Nile was said to be his sweat . . . [though] not content to dwell just in the river, Sobek was also called the Lord of Bakhu, a mythological mountain in the horizon, where he lived in a temple made from carnelian" (Shaw, Garry J. "The Egyptian Myths: A Guide to the Ancient Gods and Legends." Thames & Hudson, London, 2014, p. 137).
A stylistically similar example hammered for $12,500 at Christie's, New York "Antiquities" auction (sale 2323, June 10, 2010, lot 56).
Provenance: private J.H. collection, Beaverton, Oregon, USA, acquired around 2004; ex-Relics of the Nile, Washington, D.C., USA
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