A Wonderful Egyptian Cedar Wood & Gesso Sarcophagus Mask, Late Period, 664-332 BC

Origin: Egyptian
Period: Late Period
Provenance: Ex Steinberg collection; acquired London art market, 1960s-1970s.
Date: c.664-332 BC
Height: 9 inches
Weight: 384 grams

Naturally proportioned, the large and rare Egyptian cedar wood sarcophagus mask hailing from the Late Period, 664-332 BC having four attachment dowels (one lacking) with a well defined face and fragments of the original gesso covering in situ.

In fair to good condition the mask is presented in tact with the traces of the original gesso and shows the attachment dowels still in place. There is a naturally occurring crack to the reverse that runs from the top to the centre. The piece is very stable.

This particular mask would have been affixed to the top of an outer wooden sarcophagus by means of four long wooden dowel pegs at each corner of the mask. It would once have been covered in a layer of gesso and then painted with various coloured pigments and small traces of the gesso can still be found particularly around the eyes and mouth.

The mask was an important part of the mummy, which was placed over the head of the linen-wrapped body. Its youthful features were not intended as a likeness of the deceased, but projected an idealized image for their existence in the afterlife. In capturing these features, the masks provided the people that they respectively represented with faces in the afterlife. This allowed the soul to recognize its body and re-orient itself within it, allowing the body to live on in death. The mask also provided physical protection and could act as a substitute should the mummy's head be lost or damaged.

Museum worthy and beautifully decorative, this evocative relic has an immense aura.