These mummy covers represent the extremes of wealth and poverty in Roman Egypt. The professionally crafted, gilded, and inlaid mummy cartonnage represents a woman whose life and death were spent in luxury. In contrast, the hand-modeled and naively painted terracotta mask was perhaps fashioned by the deceased herself or a family member. Though both covers protected the mummy adequately, the materials used demonstrate how poorer members of society could also provide, inexpensively, the objects necessary to reach the next world.
MEDIUM Terracotta, paint
DATES 4th century C.E.
PERIOD Roman Period
DIMENSIONS 17 1/2 x 17 1/2 x 4 1/2 in. (44.5 x 44.5 x 11.4 cm)
Painted terracotta face and chest from the lid of a sarcophagus. The face and ears are modeled free hand in raised relief with the eyes and the brows painted black. The entire lid is covered with a white slip, now somewhat grayish with age, which has been painted to indicate the various attributes of the deceased. The deceased wears a long black wig which comes to the shoulders. A “chin strap” is made of black outlined paint within which are painted panels of red, black, and pea-green paint. The neck opening of the costume is indicated by two bands of decoration. At the top is one of the diagonal lines in black; the bottom contains alternating floral motifs, very abstracted, in red and black. A broad collar of four strands completes the decoration. The top most strand is a pattern of x’s in black. Lower down, the second strand contains alternating red and black strokes and the lowest one is of alternating floral motifs of black and red. The object is in fragile condition with areas throughout of paint/ground lifting from the terracotta. Some of the paint is flaking away. There is a repair across the chest and some inpainting but the bulk of the polychrome is original.