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Safani Gallery offers a rare anthropoid sarcophagus lid and coffin at Masterpiece London
The Posno Sarcophagus, a rare anthropoid sarcophagus lid and coffin with its mummy board.

NEW YORK, NY.- The New York-based Safani Gallery, will offer the Posno Sarcophagus, a rare anthropoid sarcophagus lid and coffin with its mummy board at Masterpiece London, it was announced by Luciano deMarsillac, Associate Director of the gallery. Masterpiece London opens on June 28 through July 4 on the South Grounds of the Royal Hospital Chelsea, London SW3.

“This ensemble represents an important chapter in the history of ancient Egyptian funerary art because it was created during Dynasty XXI of the Third Intermediate Period (about 1000-900 BC),” said deMarsillac. “It was a time of international political upheaval, often termed the Dark Ages, when Egypt’s position as the dominant world power waned.”

According to deMarsillac, Gustav Posno ranks among the famous collectors of antiquities of the 19th century. Once established in Cairo he began to collect antiquities, which he exhibited for the first time in 1874. In 1883, most of the collection was sold to the Louvre and other important European museums. This ensemble remained with Posno’s heirs until 2004, when it was sold along with other masterpieces and represents an important chapter in the history of Egyptian funerary art.

Throughout Dynasty XXI (ca. 1000-900 BC), a time of political upheaval when the tombs of the rich and famous pharaohs in the Valley of the Kings were systematically looted, the Egyptian elite at Thebes consciously chose to depict the extraordinary array of funerary images and inscriptions on their sarcophagi rather than on the walls of sumptuously decorated tombs. These sarcophagi, containing all the spells and images necessary in the hereafter, were therefore self-sufficient and independent from other funerary equipment, which might eventually be unavailable. This development, for a relatively brief period of time, brought about the most ornate and beautifully decorated sarcophagi in ancient Egypt.

The lid, with its heart-shaped face and idealizing features is dominated by large, wide-open eyes, and equally large ears, their relative proportions intended to provide unimpeded sight and hearing in the hereafter. The tripartite wig is held in place by a wide diadem with a lotus flower. Below, the separately-made hands which project over the floral, broad collar allude to the occupant’s regained tactile abilities. The remainder of the lid, is divided into a number of registers, filled with vignettes which represent abbreviated versions of those normally associated with the walls of tombs, all meant to facilitate entry and permanence in the hereafter. Osiris, the god of resurrection, scarab beetles, the sky goddess Nut, and ba-birds are all represented. The mummy board and coffin display the same and related figures and symbols.

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