EXQUISITE EGYPTIAN CARTONNAGE FRAGMENT

S O L D

Measurements: 21 cm − width, 31 cm − height (within display box)

 

Description: A marvellous multi-coloured fragment of a mummy cartonnage, displaying a mummification scene. The cartonnage consists of three registers; a column with hieroglyphic text running down the middle divides the lower two of these in halves. All registers are framed by blue, green, white and red rectangles.

 

The upper section shows the deceased, Osiris lying on a bier decorated with a lion's head, legs and tail. Such biers or tables were used during the mummification process. Above his head is a group of hieroglyphs, the eye, crown, and flag, reading Osiris. Four canopic jars are shown beneath the bier, containing the viscera. The lids of the jars depict the four children of Horus. From left to right these are: Qebehsenuf (head of a falcon, protecting the intestines), Hapy (head of a baboon, protecting the lungs), Duamutef (head of a jackal, protecting the stomach), and Imsety (human head, protecting the liver). Flying above Osiris is a bird with a human head, called ba. It represents the aspect of a human soul that makes an individual unique. The ba was the element of a person that would live on after the body had perished.

 

On the right Isis acts as a wailing woman, with hands raised in the gesture of mourning of Osiris and adoration of the ba. She is recognisable by her throne headdress. The hieroglyphs beside her head spell out her name: they are the "throne", "loaf" with "cow's horns", and "goddess" symbols. On the left is Nephthys, also a wailing woman, with hands raised. She was a goddess of death and lamentation. Above her hands is her name in hieroglyphics: they are the "house and basket", "loaf" and "goddess" symbols. Her name meant 'lady of the mansion'. The two sisters are typically paired in funerary rites because of their role as protectors of the mummy. They were the two chief mourners of Osiris and Sokar. They are wearing traditional tight dresses. Nephthys stands in front of the large hieroglyph for the East, and Isis in front of the hieroglyph for the West (the hereafter). Positioning the deceased with the feet towards the East has a symbolic meaning: when he lifts his head he will look eastward, where the sun will be reborn. These three divinities are siblings, with Isis also married to her brother Osiris.

 

A large horizontal hieroglyph for 'sky' at the top of the cartonnage represents the goddess Nut, the personification of the sky and the heavens. She is a representation of resurrection since she gives birth to the Sun god Ra, who passes over her body during the day before being swallowed at night and reborn the next morning. Her position over the mummy was meant to ensure rebirth.

 

The second register depicts the four children of Horus in mummiform, with only the heads and hands protruding. Their faces are surrounded by the tripartite wigs and in their hands they hold a strip of linen bandage. From left to right they are Qebehsenuf, Imsety, Duamutef and Hapy. The third fragmentary register depicts seated deities holding knives, on top of which knives to protect the deceased. The text running through the centre of the second and third registers is fragmented. It reads roughly: 'Words spoken by Osiris (followed by the name of the deceased) justified, born to the lord/lady of the house (...)'. This cartonnage is accompanied by a custom black display box, protected by glass.

 

Provenance: Provided upon request.

 

Period: Late Period, 525 - 332 BC

 

Condition: Very fine, back reinforced by the previous owner. There are minor cracks in the painted plaster over the whole, with one significant crack stretching horizontally across the first register from Nephthys to Isis.

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