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EW1410

A large Egyptian Wood Sarcophagus Fragment, Late Period, ca 664-332 BC

A large fragment from a sarcophagus base, handsomely decorated with a large djed pillar flanked by uraeus and surmounted by a double plumed crown comprising two tall ostrich or falcon feathers (divine law), combined with ram horns, flanked by two uraeus and sun disk at the front, the full composition in bright yellow, black, red polychrome.  

Background:  The Djed symbol is one of the more ancient and commonly found symbols in Egyptian mythology. It is a pillar-like symbol in hieroglyphics representing stability. It is associated with Osiris, the Egyptian god of the afterlife, the underworld, and the dead. It is commonly understood to represent his spine.

In the myth of Osiris and Isis, Osiris was killed by Set by being tricked into a coffin made to fit Osiris exactly. Set then had the coffin with the now deceased Osiris flung into the Nile. The coffin was carried by the Nile to the ocean and on to the city of Byblos in Syria. It ran aground and a sacred tree took root and rapidly grew around the coffin, enclosing the coffin within its trunk. The king of the land, intrigued by the tree's quick growth, ordered the tree cut down and installed as a pillar in his palace, unaware that the tree contained Osiris's body. Meanwhile, Isis searched for Osiris aided by Anubis, and came to know of Osiris's location in Byblos. Isis maneuvered herself into the favor of the king and queen and was granted a boon. She asked for the pillar in the palace hall, and upon being granted it, extracted the coffin from the pillar. She then consecrated the pillar, anointing it with myrrh and wrapping it in linen. This pillar came to be known as the pillar of djed.

Condition:   In two parts and joined via the professional mount.   A large and visually stunning piece.

Dimensions:  Overall Height: 113 cm (44.4 inches)

Provenance:  Estate of William J. Williams (1942 - 2013), staff lecturer at the National Gallery of Art, Washington DC. Mr. Williams served 30 years on the staff of the National Gallery, where he spent a period as education department editor. He wrote audio guide scripts, public brochures and wall texts for many visiting exhibitions such as “Treasures of Tutankhamun” and “Old Master Paintings from the Collection of Baron Thyssen-Bornemisza.” In 1981 he published “A Heritage of American Paintings from the National Gallery of Art,” an exploration of major movements and artists in American painting. William James Williams was born in Raytown, Mo. He graduated from the University of Missouri-Kansas City in 1963 and did postgraduate study in art history, classical archaeology and the history of opera at the University of Minnesota. Early in his career, he worked in the education departments of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo., and in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts.

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