Egypt, Late Dynastic to Ptolemaic period, ca. 664 to 30 BCE. A lovely example of a hand-carved cedar wood mummy mask depicting a highly stylized human face that is covered in white gesso and painted with hues of crimson, pale yellow, and black. The attractive countenance presents with almond-shaped eyes with elongated canthi beneath gently arching brows, a wide nose, pursed lips with slightly indented corners, a masculine chin and jawline, and bar-shaped ears bearing drilled 'piercings' that perhaps held additional ornamentation at one time. Atop the head is a simple, black-painted cap that rests low on the smooth forehead. Traces of four original dowel holes are visible on the verso, and two still retain portions of the original wooden dowels. Size: 6.25" W x 8.3" H (15.9 cm x 21.1 cm); 13.7" H (34.8 cm) on included custom stand.
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.
Provenance: private J.H. collection, Beaverton, Oregon, USA
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Losses to much of both ears as well as small areas of peripheries and verso as shown. Chipping and fading to areas of painted gesso, with a few stable fissures to mask and gesso, light encrustations, and inactive insect damage. Nice earthen deposits and traces of original pigment throughout. Old inventory number written in graphite on verso.