Fragment of a mummy cartonnage
18th dynasty (1570-1314 BCE)
Materials: linen or papyrus
This object is a multi-colored fragment of a mummy cartonnage possibly from the 18th Dynasty. Cartonnage was used for personal funerary ornaments such as mummy masks. The masks would cover the head, shoulders, and upper chest of the mummy to protect the face of the deceased. This particular piece was likely from the chest portion of a cartonnage mummy mask.
Cartonnage was made from thin, layered pieces of linen or papyrus. Once a shape had begun to form one side was coated with gesso (a mixture of glue and whiting plaster) to harden the shape. This coating allowed the maker to use detailed paint or gold leafing on the front side.
Each individual had their own design for their mask. Usually, the design would indicate something about the deceased. For instance, the mask may have been a representation of what the person looked like or enjoyed doing. An example of a gilded mummy mask can be seen at the British Museum.