Egyptian Wooden Painted Sarcophagus

SKU: CC.003

Origin: Egypt
Circa: Late Period, 7th Century BC - 4th Century BC
Dimensions: 72” high x 22” wide x 18” deep (182 h x 56 w x 45.75cm)
Medium: Painted Wood, Bronze

The sarcophagus consists of a basin and a stucco wooden lid, painted in shimmering colors with astonishing freshness. The figure represented is in hieratic form with his shroud, the face framed by a heavy wig whose wicks fall on both sides, indicated by alternating bands of green and white stripes. The oval of the face, the striking intensity of the gaze, both fixed and imperturbable, along with the outline of the eyes delicately represented in encrusted bronze, give this visage a strong serenity and a sense of presence. The torso is adorned with a vast gorget with falcon head terminals.  The broad collar covering the entire chest, consists of rows of beads, garlands, and pearls representing various floral motifs. A band of lacunary hieroglyphic text is inscribed at the foot of the figure.

Private American Collection; with l’Etoile d’Ishtar, Paris, acquired by the Conte Collection, Los Angeles, c. 2001

Very fine condition overall. Losses and surface wear throughout. With cracks to the painted and gessoed surface below the broad collar and on the legs. Moderate damage to both the casket and lid along the edges with losses of paint, plaster, and chips to the rim. Restoration to areas of paint and bronze elements around the eyes.

A central priority of ancient Egyptian religion was the protection of the body after death. A preserved body was one of the elements necessary for transforming the deceased into an effective spirit, an akh, who would live on in the afterlife. As part of this need for protection, the Egyptians who could afford to do so would ensure that their mummified remains were placed in a coffin. Although they were expensive, coffins were considered a key component of the burial assemblage and are found in tombs from the Predynastic period to the Greco-Roman era and beyond.

In addition to protection, the coffin had several religious and symbolic functions that changed over time. In its earliest history, the coffin was considered the eternal dwelling of the deceased. In the Old Kingdom, rectangular coffins were often constructed to mimic the recessed niches associated with elaborate, walled dwellings. This shape reflected the belief that the deceased dwelled in the tomb and received offerings from surviving family members. At the end of the Old Kingdom, non-royal individuals gained access to the funerary texts previously reserved for the interiors of royal pyramids. These private variations, referred to as Coffin Texts, are found written mostly on the interior of coffins from the First Intermediate Period and the Middle Kingdom. These spells ensured that the deceased would reach the afterlife and continue to prosper there. The nature of the afterlife also changed, as the dead were considered to be a manifestation of the god of the dead, Osiris. These decorated rectangular coffins were popular until the end of the Middle Kingdom, when they began to be replaced with carved, anthropoid (human-shaped) coffins. From that time on, the human-shaped sarcophagi were not only used to protect the mummy, but were also, in a certain sense, meant to represent a substitute for the god Osiris.

For similar type, period, and style see 'Coffin of Horankh,' Dallas Museum of Art, the Cecil and Ida Green Acquisition Fund, 1994.184.

Schmidt Valdemar, Sarcofager, Mumiekister og Mumiehyslstre i det Gamle Aegypten. Typologisk Atlas, Kopenhagen, 1919.


Late Dynastic

Egyptian Wooden Painted Sarcophagus

Late Dynastic

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