Masks of this type rose to popularity in the Late Period of Ancient Egypt. They likely had both a decorative and symbolic role, as the burial of the dead in Ancient Egypt was an elaborate and ritualised process. Their unnaturalistic style and the similarities between beaded mummy masks in general make it unlikely that they were modelled after the face of the deceased individual; they seem to have more likely been generic images of a dead human face as the absence of expression and the blue-greenish skin complexion could indicate. However, such masks have also been interpreted as visual representations of the god Osiris – himself also a dead being – frequently depicted in the tombs with an identical skin-colour. Winged scarabs were usually modelled in faience and placed as pectoral embellishment on the chest of the mummy. In this case, the scarab, symbol of re-birth and regeneration, has been sewed together with the mummy mask. According to mythology, the Four Sons of Horus each were attributed a different organ to protect. For Imsety, the liver; for Duamutef, the stomach; for Hapi, the lungs; and for Qebehsenuef, the intestines. As the heart was believed to be the resting place of the soul, it was not removed from the deceased. The brain, on the other hand, was thought to be inconsequential, so was scrambled to liquid, removed with metal hooks and then discarded. The four protected organs were removed from the body, embalmed, and then stored in their corresponding jar.
Elaborate Beaded Mummy Mask
An exceptional Egyptian mummy mask made of small faience beads, restrung in their original arrangement. Pale green, red, black and cream tones have been used to render in a highly stylised manner a human face with a neutral expression. The large trapezoid eyes, long thin eyebrows, broad nose and small mouth are arranged in a perfectly symmetrical manner. The mask is enriched by a tripartite panel under the chin of the mask, which shows a beaded composition forming a winged scarab, rendered in multi-coloured faience beads. Under the beaded scarab are the Four Sons of Horus, Imsety, Duamutef, Hapi, Qebehsenuef. It is very rare to have this enlarged group rather than just the face. Elongated faience beads frame the entire composition. Such mask would have been placed over the face of the deceased at their burial, in a similar manner to the better-known cartonnage mummy masks, mostly for decorative or protective purposes.
Period: Late Dynastic Period
Provenance: From Mariaud de Serres collection, Paris 1980-90s.
Condition: Extremely fine, restrung.
|Dimensions||H 21.5 cm|
Black Faience, Blue Faience, Green Faience, Grey Faience, Red Faience, Turquoise Faience, White Faience, Yellow Faience
Duamutef, Hapi, Horus, Imsety, Khepri, Osiris, Qebehsenuef