Large wood mummy mask

Egyptian, Ptolemaic period, 332-32 B.C.
H. 33 cm (12 63⁄64 in) W. 32.4 cm (12 3⁄4 in) D. 17.3 cm (6 13⁄16 in)

Collection Sir Ralph Richardson (1902 – 1983), United Kingdom
Spink archive, London (undated archive document no. 17/749 or 171749), in the 1950s
Sotheby's New York, Parke & Bernet, 1977

Madeleine Page-Gasser-André B. Wiese,
Ägypten - Augenblicke der Ewigkeit: Unbekannte Schätze aus Schweizer Privatbesitz, Basel 1997, 240f., 157

André B. Wiese
Antikensammlung Basel und Sammlung Ludwig, die Ägyptische Abteilung - Sonderbände der Antiken Welt. Zaberns Bildbände zur Archäologie, Basel 2001, 179, 130

Hans Kayser
Ägyptisches Holzhandwerk : ein Handbuch für Sammler und Liebhaber, Braunschweig 1969

D.M. Dixon
Timber in ancient Egypt, in: The Commonwealth Forestry Review, September 1974, vol. 53, No. 3 (157), pp. 205-209

Olivier Perdu - Elsa Rickal
La collection égyptienne du musée de Picardie, Amien 1984, 41 no. 25

Sue D’Auria, Peter Lacovara, and Catharine H. Roehrig, Mummies & Magic
The Funerary arts of Ancient Egypt, Boston, 1988, pp.-163-164, no. 116

Antikenmuseum Basel und Sammlung Ludwig, 1996-2019

This beautifully modelled, dense, and polished dark brown, wooden face from the lid of an anthropoid sarcophagus is of the most exquisite artistic craftsmanship and can be considered an exceptional work of Egyptian wood carving of the late period.
The broad, idealised and timeless face is naturalistically carved. The face has full lips, a shallow philtrum, straight nose, almond-shaped eyes and eyebrows with flaring cosmetic lines. The deep, sharply incised eyes and finely arched eyebrows would have been inlaid with variegated glass, faience or semi-precious stones. Originally, the face was rendered with stucco and painted in a range of colours. Remains of the original stucco have been preserved, for example, at the right temple and on the sides of the cheeks. The wide variety of artistic details paired with the superb craftsmanship highlight its owners status within Egyptian society and provide him with an serene, dignified and authoritative expression.

Reflections on the wood
Although high quality timber was relatively sparse in ancient Egypt, woodcarving reached a high standard of manufacture. The main trees of ancient Egypt were the acacia, the sycamore fig, and the tamarisk. These trees were predominantly used in carpentry and joinery. Acacia and tamarisk wood was used for the construction of boats, warships and roofing, along with the date palm; the dum-palm was employed for making doors; sidder wood was appropriate for the manufacture of dowels, sticks, mummy-labels, and other small objects, while the wood of the sycamore fig was used for a variety of purposes, such as the manufacture of statues, column bases, sarcophagi, coffins, and boxes etc. Since the diversity of domestic wood was quite limited and/or unsuitable for complex architectural and artistic purposes, Egyptian woodcarvers reverted to foreign types of wood. This rendered the importation of timber from Lebanon (cedar), Cyprus, Western Asia, Nubia (ebony), among others, crucial. For example, cedar and ebony wood was used extensively in the fabrication of the royal tombs and sarcophagi of the early kings, as they provided a contrast to ivory and animated the brown surface, giving the face a more naturalistic expression.

Sir Ralph David Richardson
Sir Ralph David Richardson (19 December 1902 – 10 October 1983) was a hugely prominent English actor during the mid-20th century, playing more than 60 roles throughout his long career, which began as an extra in 1931. He was soon cast in leading roles in British and American films, including Things to Come (1936), The Fallen Idol (1948), Long Day's Journey into Night (1962) and Doctor Zhivago (1965), receiving nominations and awards in the UK, Europe and the US. Richardson was nominated twice for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, first for The Heiress (1949) and (posthumously) for his final film, Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes (1984).
Throughout his career, and particularly in later life, Richardson was renowned for eccentric behaviour on and off the stage. He was often seen as unconventional in his outlook and opinions, and his acting was regularly described as poetic or magical.

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