Egypt, Coptic culture, ca. 4th to 6th century CE. A hand-carved limestone relief panel of superb quality with a rectangular body framed with an incised laurel wreath, perhaps meant as a funerary stele. Illustrated within the recessed front is the soul of a crouching individual, devoid of all worldly clothing and possessions, being lifted to the heavens by two shepherding angels. The celestial figures bear serene faces topped with curly hair nodules and are enrobed with flowing gowns surmounted by incised feathery wings. Above the hallowed soul is a raised crucifix representing Heaven with nine petite impressions decorating the outstretched upper, lateral, and lower arm. The meticulous detailing exhibited by each figure is suggestive of the righteousness and spiritual fortitude of the depicted deceased individual. Size: 26" L x 15.75" W (66 cm x 40 cm)
For a stylistically similar example of the ascension, please see: Wessel, Klaus. "Coptic Art in Early Christian Art." Thames and Hudson, London, 1965, fig. 49.
Provenance: private New York, USA collection, purchased in May 1962 from Andre Emmerich Gallery Inc., New York, USA; examined by Dr. Fahor Labib, Director of the Coptic Museum, Cairo, Egypt
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Repair to small area of upper periphery on verso, with chips and light adhesive residue along break line. Nicks and abrasions to figures, crucifix, laurel frame, peripheries, and verso, with softening to some finer incised detailing, light encrustations, and a small perforation to the lower right corner. Light earthen deposits and smooth patina throughout.