Funerary Masks of Fayoum

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Funerary Masks of Fayoum

Funerary masks were used to cover the face of a mummy in Ancient Egypt. The masks emphasized the ancient Egyptian belief in the fragile state of transition that the dead would have to successfully transcend in their physical and spiritual journey from this world to their divine transformation in the next. When the soul returned to the tomb, it would still be able to recognize the mummy by the mask.

The majority of funerary masks were made of cartonnage, as it was cheap, light, and easy to paint. Masks made of wood and precious metals were reserved for the wealthy, with only royalty being able to afford the ones made of silver and gold. We know from out text about the beautiful gold masks reserved for the pharaohs of ancient Egypt. The death mask of Tutankhamen, from the inner most coffin in his tomb at Thebes, Egypt, 1323 BCE, was made of gold inlaid with colored glass and semiprecious stone. It stands 21 inches high, and weighs round 11kg. The pharaoh is portrayed in the classic manner, with a ceremonial beard, a broad collar formed of twelve concentric rows consisting of inlays of turquoise, lapis lazuli, cornelian and amazonite. The traditional head-dress has yellow stripes of solid gold broken by bands of glass paste, colored dark blue. On the forehead of the mask are a royal uraeus and a vulture's head, symbols of the two tutelary deities of Lower and Upper Egypt: Wadjet and Nekhbet. Above his golden cheeks, Tutankhamen has blue petals of lapis lazuli in imitation of the kohl make-up he would have worn in life. [pic]

However, the masks of ancient Egypt were not the only funerary masks that existed in art history. Many other nations used funerary masks for similar purposes. During the period of Roman occupation in Eqypt, there were alternatives to the cartonnage or plaster mask. During this period, Fayoum portraits were introduced and were first excavated in 1888. Specialists in Graeco-Roman art...
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