Egypt, Late Dynastic Period, 26th Dynasty, Saite Period, ca. 664 to 525 BCE. A wonderful canopic box of a rare form, hand-carved from cedar, with four body panels connected via several original wooden dowels and resting atop a rectangular base, and with a petite lid bearing one original wooden dowel. The body and base periphery are presented in white pigment adorned with thin red and black strips, black outlining in some areas, and an alternating red-and-white motif. One side of the base as well as the inside of the lid display an inscription in early demotic script that, when translated, reads, "…Khnum, our lord…" with characters alternating between an unusual red and black chromatic scheme. While the original contents are unknown, this box was perhaps used as an animal coffin to contain the mummified remains of a petite creature of spiritual significance, such as an ibis or a ram lamb. Size: 10" L x 9" W x 12.6" H (25.4 cm x 22.9 cm x 32 cm).
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. Thus, 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." The rarity of cedar meant that masks like this example were reserved for those who could afford them.
A stylistically similar example, of a smaller size and covered in polychrome hieroglyphic inscription, hammered for $9,988 at Christie's, New York "Antiquities" auction (sale 9796, December 5-6, 2001, lot 250).
Provenance: private J.H. collection, Beaverton, Oregon, USA; ex-Sands of Time, Washington, D.C.; ex-private S.O. Simonian family collection, Switzerland, acquired in the 1960s and thence by descent, legally imported into the United States in 2016
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