Ancient Egyptian Woman Sarcophagus Piece

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Ancient Egyptian, Late Period - Ptolemaic Period ca. 664 to 30 BC (around 2500 years old) 17 inch wood piece of a sarcophagus depicting either the Goddess Isis, or a more personal portrait of an elite woman from the ancient world.

This piece is a lot bigger than it may look, it measures 17 inches not including the base. At the top you can partially see where a headdress once was. This piece is from the bottom of the inner sarcophagus (coffin) floor where the decedent would lay and the goddess is for protection, either Isis or Nephtys and the hand position would be open to receive the individual within the sarcophagus to bring them over to the afterlife. The piece has old termite tunnels made before the wood was broken, the way the paint remains on the piece indicates the art was not made for the fragment, but was indeed a larger figure, and the damage occurred subsequent to the figure being a complete one. The draughtsmanship, paint application, and colors are also correct for artifacts of this period. Note the visible losses to pigment, gesso, and wooden matrix. Fading to pigment in scattered areas, with chipping to gesso, some inactive insect activity, light encrustations, and age-commensurate desiccation to the wood. Great remains of pigment illustrating Isis.

The Late Period of Ancient Egypt (664–332 BCE) marked the maintenance of artistic tradition with subtle changes in the representation of the human form. The Late Period of ancient Egypt refers to the last flowering of native Egyptian rulers after the Third Intermediate Period from the Twenty-Sixth Saite Dynasty into Persian conquests and ended with the conquest by Alexander the Great and establishment of the Ptolemaic Kingdom. It ran from 664 BCE until 332 BCE. Though foreigners ruled the country at this time, Egyptian culture was more prevalent than ever.

One significant change in Ptolemaic art is the sudden re-appearance of women, who had been absent since about the Twenty-Sixth Dynasty. This phenomenon was likely due, in part, to the increasing importance of women as rulers and co-regents, as in the case of the series of Cleopatras. Although women were present in artwork, they were shown less realistically than men in this era, as is evident in a portrait of a Ptolemaic queen (possibly Cleopatra VII) from the first century BCE. Unlike its Classical and Hellenistic counterparts elsewhere in the Hellenic world, this piece bears a more stylized appearance.

The Ptolemaic Period began when Alexander the Great defeated the Persians in Egypt in 332 BCE. After he died in 323 BCE, his generals divided up his empire and Ptolemy took Egypt. Initially the generals ruled in the name of Alexander’s heirs, but Ptolemy proclaimed himself king in 305 BCE. He and his successors continued to rule Egypt until the Romans conquered it in 30 BCE, suppressing several revolts including one in Upper Egypt, 205–186 BCE. The Ptolemies initially ruled from Memphis but soon moved the royal court to Alexandria, which Alexander the Great had founded on the northwest coast of Egypt. They also introduced Greek as an administrative language alongside Egyptian. Encouraged by the many pharaohs, Greek colonists set up the trading post of Naucratis, which became an important link between the Greek world and Egypt’s grain. As Egypt came under foreign domination and decline, the pharaohs depended on the Greeks as mercenaries and even advisers. When the Persians took over Egypt, Naucratis remained an important Greek port, and the colonists were used as mercenaries by both the rebel Egyptian princes and the Persian kings, who later gave them land grants, spreading the Greek culture into the valley of the Nile. When Alexander the Great arrived, he established Alexandria on the site of the Persian fort of Rhakortis. Following Alexander’s death, control passed into the hands of the Lagid (Ptolemaic) Dynasty; they built Greek cities across their empire and gave land grants across Egypt to the veterans of their many military conflicts. Hellenistic civilization continued to thrive even after Rome annexed Egypt after the battle of Actium and did not decline until the Islamic conquests.

*Provenance: previously the David F. Hoff Collection, Virginia, USA, acquired in the 1990s. 

*All items legal to buy/sell under U.S. Statute covering cultural patrimony Code 2600, CHAPTER 14, and are guaranteed to be as described or your money back.

*Comes with a Certificate of Authenticity! 

*information courtesy of Art and Visual Culture: Prehistory to Renaissance by Alena Buis. 

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