A set of two painted cartonnage mummy trappings, one panel intended to be placed across the chest and the other destined for the abdomen and legs. Both panels are painted on a yellow background, imitating gold, and the scenes are framed by bands of green, white, black and red rectangles. The lower part of the lower panel is bordered by a vegetal pattern of triangles in various shades of green and red against a white background.
The top panel consists of three registers. In the upper register the remains can be seen of a kneeling goddess, facing right with her wings outstretched to protect the deceased. This is the goddess of the sky, Nut. The feathers of her wings are individually indicated, using several colours. On the right a bird is visible, possibly a ba-bird, as well as a large ankh (life) and a flower, its petals wide open.
The second register shows the jackal-headed god Anubis, preparing the mummy of Nes-Her, lying on a bier which is lion-headed and has animal legs; such beds or tables were used during the mummification process. A funerary mask is covering the head of the deceased and his body has been wrapped in bandages. Under the bier four vases are shown, which may or may not represent the canopic jars containing the viscera.
Flying near the mummy is a bird with a human head. This is the so-called ba-bird. The ba (often incorrectly translated "soul") was the aspect of a human being that implied free movement; funerary texts tell us that every morning the ba would fly out of the tomb as a bird to be “recharged” by the sunlight; in the evening the ba would return to the mummy and rest on it, thereby transferring the energy of the sun to the body. On a mythical level, the sun would be equated with the ba, coming out of the earth every morning and returning to the mummy of Osiris every night.
On either side of the mummy is a goddess, acting as a wailing woman for the deceased, the arms in a gesture of mourning. They are the sisters of Osiris, Isis on the left, and Nephthys on the right. Behind them are three gods on either side, their hands holding strips of linen bandage. Among them are the four children of Horus. Not all of these gods can be easily identified and the fact that some hieroglyphs have been scribbled near their heads does not help, since most are not clearly readable. On the right we see the baboon-head Hapy, and on the left the falcon-headed Qebehsenuf. In front of these are two human-headed deities, which could be representations of Imsety, although all four children of Horus are sometimes depicted with human heads. Two jackal-headed gods directly behind the wailing sisters are Anubis (on the left, meaning that he is depicted twice in this scene) and probably Duamutef.
The third register shows two rows of four sitting deities, all with a feather on their knee. They are facing a depiction in the centre of a large Isis knot amulet with the symbols for the west and the east on either side.
The lower panel contains five registers. In the top one we see again the four children of Horus, on either side of a large djed amulet between the symbols for the west and the east. From right to left the gods are Hapy, Imsety, Duamutef and Qebehsenuf.
The second register shows the mummy of the deceased again, lying on a bier with animal legs and the head of a lion, adorned by an atef crown. The ba is shown above the mummy, in its typical shape with the body of a bird and the head and arms of a human being; on either side weNext follows a section showing a broad collar with finely painted rosettes and other beads, part of them triangular in shape, with a checked pattern elsewhere. see the symbol plants of Upper and Lower Egypt (the lotus and the papyrus), followed by two wailing woman, Isis on the left and Nephthys on the right.
The next register contains another large Isis knot amulet, with on either side a papyrus symbol with a cobra on top, followed by three deities with a feather on their knees.
Next follows a section showing a broad collar with finely painted rosettes and other beads, part of them triangular in shape, with a checked pattern elsewhere.
The last register depicts flowers, which are commonly called lotus flowers, but are now generally accepted to represent water lilies (nymphaea caerulea). Although this was the symbol of Upper Egypt, it had a much deeper significance in funerary context. One of the Egyptian creation myths informs us that in the beginning darkness was covering the inert primeval waters, until suddenly a flower appeared and opened its petals, revealing the young creator or sun god; this was the beginning of creation and time. The Egyptians knew that the water lily opened up every morning, showing its yellow-golden heart, and would close again in the evening, only to reopen the next morning. They associated this with the cycle of the sun who was reborn every day. This scene therefore is a powerful symbol of regeneration.
There is a central column of hieroglyphs down the front, reading: May a royal offering be given to Osiris, the foremost of the west, and to Anubis, the foremost of the god's booth; Nes-Her, justified.
- For the name of the deceased see Hermann Ranke, Die ägyptischen Personennamen (Glückstadt, 1935), I, 178, 5.
- In the last centuries of the ancient Egyptian civilisation, starting in the early Ptolemaic Period, mummies were often no longer protected by a complete wooden coffin, enclosing the entire body. Instead, mummy trappings, usually made of cartonnage, were put on the mummy, only partially covering the body. Often an assemblage consisted of a mask, a collar or pectoral, one or more chest covers and a cover for the feet. Many mummies, adorned by such trappings, was subsequently placed in a limestone coffin for additional protection.
- Cartonnage was made with several layers of linen (or, in later periods, sometimes recycled papyrus documents) which were glued together and shaped in a mould or moulded over the mummy, and then coated with a layer of gesso (a mixture of glue and plaster). This resulted in a smooth medium, well suited for painting.
- The children of Horus: Munro has argued that all four gods have originally been represented in human form, among them Imsety as a female. Later, in the Middle Kingdom, they were also shown as animals, but only during the New Kingdom they were each connected with a particular animal (see Peter Munro, "Bemerkungen zum Gestaltwandel und zum Ursprung der Horus-Kinder", in Festschrift zum 150jährigen Bestehen des Berliner Ägyptischen Museums (Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, Mitteilungen aus der Ägyptischen Sammlung, 8) (Berlin, Akademie Verlag, 1974), p. 195-204).
Ptolemaic Period, ca. 332-30 B.C.
Height circa 68 cm.
Simonian family collection, which was assembled in Egypt during the 1950s and 1960s, moved to Switzerland in 1972, and subsequently partially moved to the USA between the late 1990s and 2003 and partially moved to Germany; objects from the latter part were legally imported into the USA in August/September 2016, including this cartonnage.
Expected losses to the edges and polychrome, two cracks to the plaque that are stabilised with the mount, but overall in excellent condition. Custom mounted on an acrylic support.