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Work Mummy mask of a boy

Department of Egyptian Antiquities: Roman Egypt (30 BC - AD 392)

Portrait en buste de jeune garçon

© 2003 Musée du Louvre / Georges Poncet

Egyptian Antiquities
Roman Egypt (30 BC - AD 392)

Author(s):
Aubert Marie-

This mummy mask depicts a young boy with a thin face and pointed chin. The colors are well preserved. The boy's large eyes are painted and incised in the stucco, and his hair is cut short. He wears a long-sleeved white tunic decorated with purple vertical stripes. In his right hand he holds a wreath of rose petals, and in his right a papyrus scroll.

Portrait of a boy

The face is that of an emaciated young boy. His pointed chin has a dimple, and his nose is straight and thin. His enormous eyes are moulded in relief, with prominent eyelids and recessed pupils. The eyes and irises are outlined in black, the eyelashes and eyebrows rendered in hatching and painted gray. The very pale flesh tone is painted in three layers: dark pink, light pink, and pinkish white. The mouth is painted dark red, in contrast with the whiteness of the skin. The "skullcap" hairstyle is rendered by parallel incised lines.

His costume and accessories

The boy wears two tunics. The inner one, a long-sleeved white garment, is decorated with purple stripes. The outer one is pink. Both necklines are moulded in relief. The boy's hands were modeled separately and added on. The wreath of rose petals in the right hand is a symbol that the dead boy has been judged one of the "just." Under his left hand, also in relief, is a papyrus scroll. This detail is borrowed from the convention in Greek sculpture by which intellectuals and orators were depicted holding volumens. Though rarely depicted on mummy masks, papyrus scrolls seem to be found more often in portraits painted on wood or cloth.

Mummy masks

This type of mummy mask, made of painted stucco (known as cartonnage), was attached to the mummy using ties, cords, or thin strips of linen, which were threaded through the holes drilled for this purpose on the extremities of the mask and at the shoulders. It depicted the head and torso of the deceased. In the first century, the head was represented in line with the torso, but during the second and third centuries it gradually became raised. Positioned at right angles to the torso, it symbolized the rebirth of the deceased in the afterlife.

Bibliography

M.-F. Aubert, R. Cortopassi, catalogue de l'exposition Portraits de l'Egypte romaine, Paris, musée du Louvre, 5 octobre 1998-4 janvier 1999, Paris, 1998, n 83 ;

Catalogue de l'exposition Egypte romaine. L'autre Egypte, Marseille, musée d'Archéologie méditerranéenne, 4 avril-13 juillet 1997, n 172 ;

Technical description

  • Portrait en buste de jeune garçon

    IIIe siècle après J.-C.

  • plâtre peint

    H. : 25 cm. ; l. : 50 cm. ; L. : 22,50 cm.

  • E 12379

  • Egyptian Antiquities

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