Mummy mask

Egyptian
Roman Imperial Period
A.D. 1–50


Dimensions

Height: 57.2 cm (22 1/2 in.)

Accession Number

1993.555.1

Medium or Technique

Painted and gilded cartonnage, inlaid glass

On View

Egyptian Funerary Arts Gallery (Mummies) (Gallery 109)

Collections

Africa and Oceania, The Ancient World

Classifications

Masks

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.

Provenance

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

Credit Line

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