Ancient Egypt, Late Dynastic to Ptolemaic Period, ca. 664 to 30 BCE. A beautiful fragment from a cedar sarcophagus lid near the top of the left side, just beneath the shoulders and head. This section of the lid is covered in white gesso that has been extensively painted with a flesh-hued ground as well as a myriad of potent Egyptian iconography. Bands of red and blue rectangles are separated with vertical black bars for ornamentation along with a band of stars on top and a wadjet (also wedjat or Eye of Horus) near the bottom. One section of a wesekh broad collar is adorned with drop-form beads and lotus flower petals in blue, gray, and coral hues, and above is a falcon-head terminal surmounted with a blood-red sun disk. Two Sons of Horus stand in mummiform while grasping lengths of linen mummy wrappings: the falcon-headed son Qebehsenuef - guardian of the intestines - as well as the baboon-headed son Hapi - guardian of the lungs. Size: 3.3" L x 8.7" W x 17.5" H (8.4 cm x 22.1 cm x 44.4 cm); (display case): 5.2" L x 11.375" W x 21.3" H (13.2 cm x 28.9 cm x 54.1 cm)
Coffins and sarcophagi made for higher-status and intellectual individuals 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)
This piece has been searched against the Art Loss Register database and has been cleared. The Art Loss Register maintains the world's largest database of stolen art, collectibles, and antiques.
Provenance: East Coast collection, New York Gallery, New York City, New York, USA, before 2010
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This is a fragment of a larger sarcophagus lid, near the top of the left side as indicated by the flat base beneath figure of Hapi. Second fragment attached to top verso as shown. Four original wooden dowels are visible along top and beneath register of stars, and 1 dowel hole visible along left side behind falcon-headed collar terminal. Chipping and abrasions to painted gesso and exposed wooden areas, with fading to applied pigment, and a few stable fissures to wood. Mounted on verso to pins within display case. Beautiful preservation to remaining pigments and iconography.