An Ancient Egyptian Cartonnage Mask

An Ancient Egyptian Cartonnage Mask

The Legend of Osiris

Illustrating the story of Osiris - the first mummy and the mythological basis for Egyptian embalming practices - this cartonnage mask displays scenes that help us to understand how the deceased of Ancient Egypt wished to be transfigured, achieving eternal life in the same way as Osiris himself. We are delighted to present this impressive example in our forthcoming auction of The Contents of Lowood House. 

The ancient Egyptians believed that the first to achieve eternal life following death was the god Osiris. Following his murder by his brother Set, Osiris’ body was scattered throughout Egypt. It was Osiris’ devoted wife Isis who travelled across the country, collecting body parts with the aid of the other gods, to restore her husband. Thus, Osiris became the first mummy and the mythological basis for Egyptian embalming practices.

 

AN ANCIENT EGYPTIAN PTOLEMAIC GILT CARTONNAGE MASK

 

The present cartonnage mask shows two scenes from this story; at the base of the wig is the mummified Osiris, being worshipped by Isis. We also see Isis in the form of a kite or kestrel as this was the shape she took when fanning magical breath back into Osiris’ mummified body with her wings. Yet interestingly, Osiris does not appear in this depiction, suggesting that Isis is in fact shown fanning life into the wearer of this mask.

 

AN ANCIENT EGYPTIAN PTOLEMAIC GILT CARTONNAGE MASK
LOT 113 | AN ANCIENT EGYPTIAN PTOLEMAIC GILT CARTONNAGE MASK | CIRCA 2ND/1ST CENTURY B.C.
case: 36cm wide, 49cm high, 35cm deep; mask: 22cm wide, 39cm high, 22.5cm deep | £10,000 - £15,000 + fees
Provenance: By family repute possibly acquired on the advice of the noted Egyptologist, Walter Ewing Crum (1865-1944)

 

View Lot 113 ⇒

 

It is through painted scenes such as this we can understand how the deceased wished to be transfigured, achieving eternal life in the same way as Osiris himself. This is further emphasised by the use of gilding to the face; the ancient Egyptians believed that the skin of Osiris (and all gods) was formed of gold; its eternal, unchanging nature and solar glow reflecting the divine. As such, a mask such as this was intended to equate its wearer with the divine in the hope of eternal life.

 


 

Auction Information

 

The Contents of Lowood House

Wednesday 06 October at 10am

Live Online | Edinburgh

 

View the auction catalogue ⇒

 


 

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People matter to us as much as their possessions. We offer a very personal service and work closely with our clients to ensure that all elements of the sale reflect their taste and values. Our bespoke approach to every collection has placed us amongst the market leaders in this field and our dedicated international team has considerable experience of orchestrating these sales.

 

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