Egyptian Polychrome Wood Sarcophagus Fragment

SKU: CC.002

Origin: Egypt
Circa: Third Intermediate to Early Late Period, 1070-650 BC
Dimensions: 36.5” high x 20” wide x 9” deep; With case 66” high x 22” wide x 16” deep
Medium: Wood

Gessoed and brightly painted, comprised of an anthropoid inner coffin lid, the deceased wearing a striped tripartite headcloth, his face with large black irises within elongated eyes, with extended cosmetic lines and conforming brows, adorned with an elaborate, multi-strand, beaded broad collar, with falcon head terminals.

New York Art Market 1990's; Private Collection, Los Angeles.

Fine Condition, abrasions and minor chips to the surface throughout, small cracks to side walls below the shoulder, with losses to painted elements as seen. Strong pigment, superb definition, fully intact, finely delineated facial features, overall very fine state of preservation.

Early tombs were considered the eternal dwelling places of the deceased, and the earliest coffins resembled miniature homes in appearance. They were made of small pieces of local wood doweled together.

By the Old Kingdom, coffins were rectangular boxes with flat lids. They were painted and inscribed in hieroglyphs with four important features: the deceased's name and titles; a list of food offerings; a false door through which the ka could pass; and eyes through which the deceased could see outside the coffin. The person was placed in the coffin on their left side, so their face would be directly lined up with the painted eyes on the coffin's side.

By the Middle Kingdom the coffin was considered a miniature tomb, and it was decorated with many of the items that had formerly adorned the walls of the tomb. The goddesses Isis and Nephthys were painted as guards at the head and foot of the coffin. The inside floor of the coffin was painted with Nut, Isis, Osiris, or the Djed pillar (Osiris's backbone). The sides bore the four sons of Horus and other deities. Horizontal inscriptions gave not only the owner's name and titles, but also a prayer for offerings. Vertical inscriptions were prayers to the divinities on behalf of the deceased.

During the Middle Kingdom anthropoid coffins such as the current example appeared. These were coffins carved to the outline of the deceased person's body and decorated with the face and wig of the deceased. They not only copied the person’s form, but they also served as substitute bodies in case the mummified body was lost or destroyed. As time went on, anthropoid coffins were decorated with an increasing number of scenes and inscriptions.

See 'Head from a Coffin Lid,' Ancient Egyptian Art, Emory Michael C Carlos Museum, 2018.010.413.

Adams, Barbara. Egyptian Mummies. Aylesbury: Shire Publications, Ltd., 1984.

Brewer, Douglas, and Emily Teeter. Egypt and the Egyptians. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 1999.

Spencer, A.J. Death in Ancient Egypt. New York: Penguin Books, 1982.

Taylor, John H. Egyptian Coffins Aylesbury: Shire Publications, Ltd., 1989.


Late Dynastic

Egyptian Polychrome Wood Sarcophagus Fragment

Late Dynastic

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