Funerary mask

Funerary mask
New Kingdom, about 1331-1292 BCE
Stuccoed and painted fabric, coloured glass paste ; H. 49 cm
Inv. E.6884

Masks covering mummies' head and shoulders appeared in the Middle Kingdom. Their role was probably to preserve the head of the deceased in the afterlife, with the sense organs essential to survival intact. This superb example belonged to a high dignitary of the late 18th dynasty. In a perfectly oval face of idealized youthfulness, the large, slightly slanted eyes impose their intense gaze. The corners of the mouth and the nostrils are magically opened with black paint so that the deceased may eat and breath in the afterlife. The two rows of small beads at the centre of the necklace, near the neck, are part of what the ancient Egyptians called 'gold of recompense', precious objects offered as a reward to deserving civil servants. Several great dignitaries of the late 18th dynasty benefited from this honour, like Maya, the famous treasurer of Tutankhamun.

This mask is one of the masterpieces of our exhibition Sarcophagi (till 20 April 2016). Visitors are fascinated by its beauty and its serenity and they take a lot of pictures to post them on social media.