- THE COLLECTION
- THE SPIRIT OF THE GALLERY
Feminine mask in ivory-coloured, fine grain stucco. The inlaid eyes are of molten glass; the open black pupil and the slightly cross-eyed look were the custom for representing beauty. The canons of beauty are clearly Greek: aquiline nose, well curved eyebrows, slightly smiling lips and dimple in the chin. Hollow inside, this mask recalls Hellenistic sculpture with its perfect oval shape and its high ears. The subject wears an impressive hairstyle of curls on which traces of black polychromy are still visible. It was the custom that the face is also painted. The stucco was cast in successive layers into a mould then the various parts were assembled after turning it out.This mask replaces, in the Ptolemaic and Roman period, the pharaonic mask of previous times. The production of this type of object in stucco being in series, the hairstyle and the jewels allowed the object to resemble perfectly. The Book of the Dead reminds us that the funeral mask constituted an essential element of the protection of the head of the deceased, each part of which was identified with a divinity.
The plaster masks derive from pharaonic traditions, in which the mask served as a substitute for the head of the deceased and as a means of elevating him or her to immortal status. The derivation is often reflected in paintings and texts located on the mantle surrounding the head.
Like the painted mummy portraits, the masks suggest strongly individualized appearances and affect Roman fashions in hairstyle, jewelry, and dress. They follow, however, a somewhat different pattern. For example, female masks may have coiffures that combine Roman arrangements of the upper part of the hair with long corkscrew locks that were considered typically Egyptian.
Despite the seeming individuality of the masks, most faces were made in a mold. Distinguishing details were worked in the plaster with a spatula or knife. The ears were added separately, and sometimes eyes were inlaid with glass or stone. The mask was then frequently painted or gilded.
Similar pieces are exhibited in the Egyptian Cairo Museum, first floor – section 14 and in the Musée du Louvre inv. E 27152, MH 16, gift from Mr.Marquet in 1976.