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Huge Egyptian Late Period Wood & Gesso Sarcophagus Mask

Egypt, Late Dynastic to Ptolemaic Period, ca. 664 to 30 BCE. A hand-carved wooden mask with large almond-shaped eyes and recessed brows, a prominent nose, a gentle mouth with full lips, nicely-contoured cheeks, and a rounded headdress that sits low on the forehead. The back of the mask is slightly concave with several residual dowels and dowel holes visible, and a carved slot behind the chin perhaps held a false beard. The surface of the obverse side is coated in dense layers of chalky-white gesso, and traces of applied black, tan, and blue pigment are visible along the headdress and face. The sarcophagus mask was an essential component of the mummy, placed over the head to provide an idealized image of the deceased as they would be once resurrected. This mask and others like it were traditionally carved from cedar. Custom museum-quality display stand included. Size: 10.125" W x 12" H (25.7 cm x 30.5 cm); 15.25" H (38.7 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.

Condition: Losses to most pigmentation as well as areas of peripheries, verso, headdress, eyes, and nose. Minor fading to some finer details, with fading and chipping to pigmentation, and several stable fissures. Nice earthen deposits as well as traces of gesso and pigmentation throughout.

Provenance: private Honolulu, Hawaii, USA collection; ex-private New York, New York, USA collection, acquired by Mr. Ezeldeen Taha Eldarir in Egypt between 1946 and 1948

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