Mummy mask

probably 1st–2nd century CE
more object details

General Description

Egyptian Mummy masks like this were made to cover the linen-wrapped body of the dead person, acting as magical substitutes for the face, and therefore the personality, of the dead person, should the body be damaged. While the idea of mummy masks is old in Egyptian religion, and the style of this piece recalls the heads on much older anthropoid and mummiform coffins (1994.184). However, this example belongs to the later Greco-Roman period, when such masks, in effect, recreated for ordinary people such spectacular royal burial equipment as King Tutankhamun's solid gold face mask. It has been suggested that the use of gold leaf to gild the faced was supposed to identify the dead person with the sun god Amun-Ra.

The mask is made of cartonnage, which is composed of several layers of linen impregnated with gesso, a plaster-glue compound. When the mask has been molded and hardened, it was painted with ochre and cobalt pigments. The face and ornamental collar sections were covered with gold leaf. The contrast between the broad, calm and cheerful face, and the rich blue wig and gilded ornaments is especially luxurious. The piece is in an interesting contrast with the DMA's Roman period plaster mummy mask (1995.82), as that mask is purely Greco-Roman in style and ornaments, whereas this piece is a traditional Egyptian representation, with an Egyptian decorative wig and broad collar necklace.

Adapted from

Anne Bromberg, DMA unpublished material [1996.63], August 1997.

Web Resources

Penn Museum
See a similar Greco-Roman mummy mask.