Ptolemaic Mummy Mask

In the Ptolemaic period, the mummy was not enclosed by a complete mummy case, but only by individual pieces of covering, including a mummy mask. Before placing the mummy in its coffin, a number of decorations could be applied.

The outer mummy bandages could be painted, the mummy could receive a net of beads with amulets, or a partial covering with pieces of cartonnage such as, for instance, a mummy mask, a cartonnage body cover, or a mummy plank. 

Ptolemaic Mummy Mask
Ptolemaic Mummy Mask

Mummy masks are shaped like a face wearing the tripartite long wig which extends onto the chest. They were fitted over the mummy’s head, with the shoulders remaining bare.

On this mask, the broad face with the broad nose has a small mouth with upturned corners, giving it the typical impersonal dismissive smile, indicative of the Ptolemaic Period. 

The eyes are large with a black iris and pupil, and they are outlined with blue make-up lines. The face, neck, and chest, but not the wig, have been gilded.

The wig has been painted in a dark blue, on the front the individual tresses are marked by white lines.

The gilding of the face guarantees everlastingness to the deceased. It makes the mask into one of the most valuable items of the funerary equipment.

At the same time, the gold symbolizes the rays of the sun which spread life with their heat. Thus, the smile and shine of this mask express the nature of the justified deceased.

Ptolemaic Period, ca. 305-30 BC. Now in the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. INV 296