Pieces of Egypt

Last Wednesday I took a look at the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose, so today it seemed appropriate to share photos of some of the Egyptian artifacts I saw recently at San Francisco’s Legion of Honor art museum. It was my very first visit to this fine art museum, and I highly recommend taking the time to explore its collection if you’re ever in the area. I saw everything from ancient artifacts to Impressionis works by van Gogh and Monet. And even though I spent an entire morning there, I feel I could have happily wandered those halls for much longer.

Mummy mask and pectoral, late Ptolemaic to early Roman period (150-50 B.C.)

This mask is an idealized image of the deceased as a resurrected being, and was placed over the head of a mummy in the Museums’ collection (not on view). It is made of cartonnage, an inexpensive and lightweight material composed of layers of linen stuffed with glue and plaster. Such masks were worn to protect the head, both physically and symbolically, and filled a crucially symbolic role by signifying the elevation of the deceased to a higher plane of existence in the afterlife. Its gilding identified the individual with the gods, who in religious texts were described as having flesh of gold — Museum information card

Torso of a god, last decade of the reign of Amenhotep III (1359-13-49 BC)

This nearly life-size torso was probably carved for the royal jubilee for the pharoah Amenhotep III. Three jubilees (sed festivals) — intended to revitalize the failing powers of the ageing ruler and emphasize his relationship with the gods — were held during the last decade of his reign, and sets of divine statues were comissioned to be placed in temples at major sites throughout Egypt. Appropriately, this statue is carved from granodiorite, a black stone that symbolized fertility and hence rejuvenation — Museum information card

Anthropoid coffin of Iret-hor-irou, Dynasty 30 (380-383 B.C.)

The human-shaped coffin functioned as a substitute for the mummified body; it also supplied a surface for images and texts to protect the deceased and assure safe passage to the netherworld. This beautifully carved and inscribed inner coffin for the burial of an important and wealthy individual is formed from two large pieces of imported cedar, a luxury commodity in Egypt. The unusually long inscription is carved with the name of the coffin’s owner and a spell relating to number 72 from the Book of the Dead — Museum information card

Statuette of Seneb, Middle Kingdom (ca. 1897-1839 B.C.)