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Cartonnage and Faiyum portrait of a noblewoman

Graeco-Roman Period, 332 B.C.-A.D. 330

Linen, gesso (a kind of plaster), painted and gilded with a wooden panel painted with pigments suspended in hot wax, perhaps from the Faiyum

Such ensembles rank among the most beautiful of all funerary works of art ever created in ancient Egypt. The deceased is shown wearing an array of jewelry including a pair of snake bracelets recalling actual examples elsewhere in this exhibition, and demonstrating that she is a devotee of the goddess Isis. As such, the wooden panel with her face painted on it was hung in a house during life, and fitted to the cartonnage in death. In a book published late in 1995 a noted scholar has convincingly argued that these images of Isis devotees were used by the living as mediums in rituals by which they could contact the realm of the spirits beyond.

Photo courtesy of Roemer und Pelizaeus Museum

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