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Mummy Mask with Gilded Face

Place of production Faiyum (?), Egypt
Date 1st century B.C.
Object type tomb equipment
Medium, technique Cartonnage, paint, gilded

37.8 × 23 × 23 cm

Inventory number 51.247
Collection Egyptian Art
On view Museum of Fine Arts, Basement Floor, Ancient Egypt, Funerary beliefs

During the Ptolemaic and Roman periods, mummies were frequently equipped with a mask made of plaster or cartonnage consisting of layers of linen or papyrus glued together, gessoed, and then painted. The mask protected the head of the mummy, and its decoration referred to the deification of the deceased. The face, as in the case of this specimen, was often gilded, which identified the deceased with the sun god whose flesh was believed to be made of gold. The facial features were not modelled to represent a real portrait but to present an idealized image.
Judging from its small size, this linen cartonnage mask was made for a child. The face is framed by a blue tripartite wig with a yellow-edged red ribbon on the head, which is decorated with a sun disc at the front and is tied in a knot at the back. Above the ribbon a scarab with outstretched wings is depicted. On each lappet of the wig the image of the enthroned Osiris appears, whose green-painted skin symbolizes rebirth. In front of Osiris, on both lappets, a human-headed mummy-form figure is depicted. These figures presumably represent the embalmed deceased. The figures of both Osiris and the deceased are accompanied by empty text columns painted red or green. These would have contained inscriptions identifying the figures. Leaving text columns empty was a rather common device in contemporaneous funerary art. The decorative design framing the lappets of the wig consists of geometric and floral patterns, as well as a wedjat-eye on each side.

This record is subject to revision due to ongoing research.

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