Mask of Kay-neferwy

This mummy mask of Kay-neferwy has an extraordinary presence with its combination of glass inlaid eyes, gilt face with shimmering, almost lifelike translucence, and realistic wig. The craftsman who fashioned the wig out of thick resin carefully cut and modeled the plaits of hair in the latest style.

The red “gold” coloring of her skin-a result of oxidation on the metal surface-may be purposeful or merely the product of the sulphurous fumes given off by the resinous wig. The band around her head, her eyes, and her nipples are inlaid with glass, surprising because glass was as costly and rare as the turquoise and carnelian for which it was substituted.

Mummy Mask of Kay-neferwy
Mummy Mask of Kay-neferwy

The roughened surface of the mask’s lips suggests they were once covered with a heavier gold foil. In each hand she holds a wooden amulet to signify strength and welfare. A delicate scene carved in relief on her arms shows her successful ascent into the afterlife on the boat of the Great God Osiris.

New Kingdom, 19th Dynasty, ca. 1292-1189 BC. Plaster, linen, resin, glass, wood, gold, and pigment. 21 1/16 x 14 9/16 x 9 3/4 in. (53.5 x 37 x 24.7 cm). Excavated by Mohammed Zakaria Goneim, Keeper of the Antiquities of Saqqara, at Saqqara, during his first season (1951-1952). From Memphis, Giza. Now in the Saint Louis Art Museum. 19:1998