Egypt, Ptolemaic Period, ca. 332 to 30 BCE. A fine set of two rare linen panels of sizable rectangular forms that are woven from coarse flax fibers and used during the linen-wrapping phase of the embalming process. The first panel is decorated with applied red and black ink and features (from top to bottom) two figures next to and a line of hieroglyphs above a sarcophagus, a figure gesturing towards an overflowing offering table with three columns of hieroglyphs and a couchant Anubis, and two field workers flanked by two large birds and a spitting snake. The larger panel features a column with a striding figure beneath a couchant Anubis and the two-part cartouche for Pharaoh Ramesses the Great (ca. 1279 - 1213 BCE), another Anubis and a wedjat above a plinth, and four hieroglyphs which translate to "Ramesses" above the torso of a second figure. Embalming linens were inscribed with scenes and hieroglyphs like these to protect the deceased. Size of largest (column): 20.125" W x 35.125" H (51.1 cm x 89.2 cm); (display frame): 24" W x 35.9" H (61 cm x 91.2 cm).
For an example of the embalming linen from the tomb of Tutankhamun, please see The Metropolitan Museum of Art, accession number 09.184.220.
Another stylistically similar example, from the Third Intermediate Period and of a larger size, hammered for $18,750 at Christie's, New York "Antiquities" auction (sale 2056, December 9, 2008, lot 19).
Provenance: private New York, New York, USA collection; ex-Seward Kennedy estate collection, New York, USA, London, England, and Paris, France, acquired between 1955 and 2015; ex-Sotheby & Co., London, New Bond Street "Egyptian, Western Asiatic, Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities, Islamic Pottery and Metalwork, Indian Sculpture, African, Oceanic, Pre-Columbian and American Indian Art" auction (May 20, 1969, lots 132 & 133). Seward Kennedy assembled his 'cabinet of curiosities' over a period of more than six decades, seeking out treasures from across the world, which came to layer the surfaces of his residences in London, Paris, and New York City. Kennedy, who was a successful lawyer, rejected the title of 'collector' and instead saw himself as a custodian of remarkable objects.
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Both panels have minor fraying, loosening, and losses to some interior and peripheral threads, with fading to areas of original pigment, and light staining commensurate with embalming. Great traces of original pigment and imagery throughout.