Saturday, August 14, 2010

Photo for Today - Gilded mummy mask, MFA

Copyright Rick Menges, with my thanks

Mummy Mask
1st Century BC
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Museum of Fine Arts

Thanks to Rick for letting me know that, contrary to my previous assertion, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, do actually have a database of their collections online. I have no idea how I missed it because I really did do a thorough search for it, but there you go. Senility is obviously setting in. Browsing through the collection, I am impressed with the sheer number of funerary cones they have! The collection as a whole is eclectic and there are some very attractive pieces. The collection search engine, however, leaves a lot to be desired.

Here's what the MFA website has to say about today's photo.

Mummy mask
Egyptian, Greco-Roman Period, first half of the 1st century A.D., A.D. 0–500

Height: 57.2 cm (22 1/2 in.)
Painted and gilded cartonnage, inlaid glass

Classification: Tomb equipment

On view in the: Egyptian Funerary Arts Gallery

Traditional Egyptian funerary practices continued well into Roman times, when cartonnage mummy masks were made to fit over the head of the wrapped mummy. They belong to the same tradition as mummy masks from the Middle Kingdom. This face, modeled in plaster, is bland and idealized, and represents the deceased transformed into a god. The gilding and glass inlays are quite dazzling. Yet the black hair emerging from beneath the headdress lends a human touch to this shining icon.

The traditional lappet headdress is painted with age-old funerary motifs. A winged sun disk with uraei, image of the celestial Horus, crowns the head like a diadem, and rows of seated deities, Anubis jackals, and solar uraei adorn the sides. The broadcollar is a kaleidoscope of rosettes and geometric patterns imitating rows of beads.

The scene on the chest depicts the resurrection of Osiris. The god reclines on a lion bier, with Isis in front of him and Nephthys behind him, gesticulating with grief and uttering magic spells to bring him back to life. Above him hovers a falcon holding in its talons the shen-ring of eternity and a feather fan. Below are the Red Crown, the Double Crown, and the White Crown — the emblems of his power. Magic seems to take effect before our eyes as the shrouded one, the great god Osiris — his flesh of Nile silt, ram’s horns of divinity on his head — sits up in bed and turns to face his sister-wife. The god is reborn.

Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Gift of Lucien Viola, Horace L. and Florence E. Mayer Fund, Helen and Alice Colburn Fund, Marilyn M. Simpson Fund, William Francis Warden Fund, and William Stevenson Smith Fund, 1993
Accession number: 1993.555.1

Provenance/Ownership History: By 1993: with Lucien Viola, L'Ibis Gallery, NY; 1993: purchased by the MFA from Lucien Viola.

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