Beautifully decorated, this brightly painted cartonnage mask dates to the early Ptolomaic period. The skin on the ears, face and neck of the mask is gilded to imitate the imperishable golden skin of the gods, the large eyes and brows are outlined in black pigment, the nose is small, the mouth closed. The tripartite headdress is secured by a decorated diadem surmounted with a scarab facing a sun disk, a symbol of rebirth into the next world. Geometric patterns decorate parts of the headdress, and the lappets of the wig. The deceased wears a wide broad-collar decorated with fruit, rosettes and geometric patterns: imagery to address her hope for a successful entry into the afterlife. Both the center of the diadem and the lappets of the wig carry a single line inscription that reads:
“Hail to you, beautiful of face, lord of rays, whom Ptah-Sokar joins together and Anubis elevates! May Thoth raise up your beautiful face, which sees the beauty! Your right eye is the day barque, [your] left [eye] is the night barque, (O) Osiris Tenet-hor, true of voice, born of Aset-weret!”
The inscription has meaning on a number of levels: "Hail to you" addressess the sun god (lord of rays) as well as the deceased. As the mask is golden and part of the rising processs (i.e. lifting the head, this being resurrection for the Egyptians, refer to the mythology pertaining to headrests, hypokephaloi et al), it is equated with the sun whereby both rise at dawn. As the deceased is hailed in the same words as the sun god, they become one, and thus, the deceased shall be able to be reborn the same as the sun god.
"Seeing the beauty" is an expression often used for seeing the rising sun (the word for beauty can also be used to refer to the head), but in this case Thoth is to lift the head (= mask) so that the deceased can see the beauty (= sun and mask).
"Your right eye is the day barque, [your] left [eye] is the night barque:" With these barques the sun god travels through the sky and through the underworld; the eyes of the god Horus were associated with the sun and the moon, and with the barques of the sun. Therefore the eyes of the deceased, and therefore the deceased herself is equated with Horus (Herwer), another means of assuring rebirth. And to make it complete, in the text it literally says "my right eye", meaning the deceased herself is speaking these words.
Dimensions:Height : 12 1/4 inches (31.1 cm), width: 9 1/2 inches (24.13 cm)
Condition:The mask has been professionally stabilized and conserved with dry surface cleaning, tears/losses to right lappet, cheek, lips and nose realigned and reformed. These areas backed with strips of Japanese tissue on the rear and lifting flakes and cracks stabilized. Overall, the mask is intact and in very good condition. Presented on museum quality custom mount.
Provenance: The Simonian Family Collection of Ancient Art, Switzerland, acquired in the 1960's and then by descent, legally imported into the USA in 2016.