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Antiquities

Christie's New York

October 28, 2019

Sale 17643

Egyptian coffin

By Carter B. Horsley

This October 28, 2019 auction of Antiquities at Christie's New York is highlighted by an Egyptian painted wood anthropoid coffin for Pa-Di-Tu-Aman from the Third Intermediate period in the 21st-22nd Dynasty, circa 945-889 B.C.  It is 71 7/8 inches high.  It was once with Olof Vilhelm Arrhenius of Stockholm and then with Trammell Crow of Dallas. 

It has been widely published and was exhibited at tne Agyptologisches Institut at the Ruprecht-Karls-Universitat in Heidelberg from 1980-84, the San Antonio Museum of Art from 1990-2001 and the Mougins Museum of Classical Art from 2011-2019.

The catalogue provides the following long and fascinating commentary about the ancient re-use of coffins:

"This Third Intermediate Period coffin is one of the finest examples to ever appear at auction. It was acquired by the Swedish scientist Olof Vilhelm Arrhenius during his travels to Egypt in the 1920s and shipped home in a warship. It first became known to a wider audience when his descendants put it on loan in Heidelberg in the early 1980s, and it has since been on loan to 2 other public institutions until the present day. What makes this coffin remarkable is its excellent state of preservation and extensive and fine pictorial representations across almost every surface. In previous periods, Egyptian tombs were decorated with painted or sculpted scenes but due to the extensive destruction during the Third Intermediate Period, this extensive imagery was transferred to coffins as seen here.

"Consisting of a lid originally made for a woman and a trough made for a man named Pa-di-tu-Amun, this coffin set reflects extensive ancient reuse of elements of coffins from earlier burial ensembles, and further shows evidence of multiple alterations on its lid. Since Egyptian coffins of this period were made in standardized sizes, the lid of one could easily be “married” to the trough of another. A close examination of this coffin however allows a more complex understanding of the many changes undergone by both parts of the coffin in ancient times. Most likely, Pa-di-tu-Amun adapted the lid of the coffin of a priestess to match his extant coffin trough some time in early Dynasty 22. The clear addition of a beard on a female face implies that both elements were used together by a male owner in antiquity.

"The lid of this coffin is of the 'stola' type, named for the red 'mummy braces' or stola painted above the floral collar encircling the upper part of the body. Stola coffins exclusively occur after the end of the 21st Dynasty during the first few reigns of Dynasty 22, and 129 examples of stola coffins (including this one) have been extensively classified by R. van Walsem....The decoration scheme of this lid is identified in his authoritative work as stola coffin type 12Bb, based on the arrangement of the floral collar on the upper body, the layout of winged sundisks and goddesses in the central portion, and the pattern of vertical text bands and vignettes from the knees to feet. The clearly modeled breasts, as well as the originally beardless face painted yellow indicate that the lid was originally made for a female owner. The coffin shows extensive traces of reuse, including several alterations of the lid probably reflecting reuse for various priestesses associated with the cult of Amun. The latest textual alteration features the titles 'mistress of the house, chantress of [Amun]', which helps to relate this coffin to burials of members of families of the Amun priesthood throughout western Thebes, especially with the the famous 'Second Cachette' discovered in 1891 at Deir el-Bahri in the Bab el-Gasus tomb. Consisting of more than 250 coffins and mummy-covers, the circumstances of this discovery have been authoritatively studied by A. Niwinski (21st Dynasty Coffins from Thebes: Chronological and Typological Studies) and R. Sousa (Gleaming Coffins: Iconography and Symbolism in Theban Coffin Decoration (21st Dynasty), vol. 1). Stola-type coffins are known from many locations in western Thebes and further afield, however, and this example may well derive from a context other than the Bab el-Gasus find.



Fetail of top of coffin



Detail of coffin lid


"Originally decorated in polychrome painted images and hieroglyphs on a white background, the lid was covered with a coating of resin that gave it its yellow color. The original polychromy features bright pigment, including a distinctive 'apple green' color that is documented on other stola coffins. At some later point, relief decoration was added in thick dark green gesso, partially covering the earlier polychromy – this can especially be noted on the wings of the goddesses and winged sun disks, as well as on the two vertical bands of inscription. These text bands feature the offering formula drawn in narrow hieroglyphs in yellow, invoking Re-Harakhty-Atum (left-hand column) and Osiris (right-hand column). A third layer of alteration is discernible in thicker yellow signs on a black background naming the chantress title as described above; this might represent an addition only of the titles and a name, which is unfortunately entirely missing on the lid, due to losses near the feet. The name of the original owner of the lid is presumably covered beneath these later layers of paint. We may therefore imagine at least two and possibly three uses of the coffin lid by female owners, prior to its adaptation for a male burial. The underside of the coffin lid is coated in thick black resin, a material which was liberally applied to mummies and funerary equipment in order to allow divine transformation of the soul of the deceased.




Detail of trough inside the coffin


Detail of inside of coffin


"The trough extensively features the name, titles, and genealogy of the 'Chief of Servants/Weavers of the House of Amun' Pa-di-tu-Amun (a variation of the extremely common name Pa-di-Amun, 'the one whom Amun gave'). This final alteration may have been made at the time of the association of the lid with the trough intended for Pa-di-tu-Amun, which would have necessitated the addition of a beard to the female face. It is unusual that the breasts were not removed in the final transformation of the coffin; in other similar instances the breasts were removed and painting was done to mask their removal (see Louvre AF 9593 in Niwinski, op. cit., no. 349). The hands are a modern restoration, and the form of the original hands (usually open for a woman, and shown closed as here for a man) is not known. The research of K. Cooney on the extensive reuse of coffins during the Third Intermediate Period has resulted in a heightened awareness of the frequency of the reuse of funerary items during this era, exemplified very clearly in the present example (see The Cost of Death: The Social and Economic Value of Ancient Egyptian Funerary Art in the Ramesside Period). Cooney has found that about 50 percent of all yellow coffins were reused, while as many as 75 percent of the coffins from the Bab el-Gasus cachette have traces of reuse.

"The trough of the coffin is richly decorated in polychrome iconography that combines themes from the Underworld books (the Amduat and the Book of the Earth) with elements of funerary ritual. Making use of directional symbols, as well as a rich iconography of both the Osirian and solar cycles, the coffin formed a microcosm to protectively envelop the deceased and enable his or her eternal transformation into a divine being. Described by de Ara˙jo Duarte (op. cit.) as the 'coffin which best attests the level of intericonicity between elements of the funerary procession with those of the Amduat,' this example stands out among those he studied. Scenes of a solar barque being dragged on a sled by various divine beings dominate both the right and left sides of the coffin exterior, and combine elements of the 10th and 12th Hours of the Amduat, iconography that is well-known from royal tombs in the Valley of the Kings. An especially interesting scene depicts groups of ba-souls (human-headed birds) with arms raised in adoration, as well as human-headed uraeus cobras, all pulling the ropes of the solar boat containing the ram-headed sun god, who is protected by the mehen-serpent and accompanied by goddesses Isis, Nepthys and Maat. A mummified and seated baboon deity may be interpreted as a form of the god Osiris at the end of the 12th hour of the night. As on contemporary papyri, the coffins of the late Third Intermediate Period tend to emphasize the last four hours of the journey of the solar bark through the night. These scenes of a boat on a sledge also evoke the funerary procession of the mummy of the deceased to the tomb, implicitly linking the landscape of western Thebes with the divine landscape of the Underworld. The texts inscribed both inside and outside of the coffin trough similarly evince a combination of standard offering formulas and mortuary texts with otherworldly content. Every empty space around figures and blocks of text is filled with emblematic signs or sign groups that serve as protective devices and brief captions, some with enigmatic meaning. The extremely intricate iconography of the exterior of the trough features many well-drawn details of interest- a male figure (possibly the coffin owner) holding an oar; a small figure of a priest playing a double flute; mirror-image groupings of Osiris, Isis, and Maat associated with figures of a divine cow; and symmetrical representations of the 'Abydos fetish,' the reliquary of Osiris’ head. The rim of the entire coffin trough is crowned with a frieze of protective uraeus cobras, beneath which a long register of text featuring offering formulas unfolds in either direction from an ankh sign at the head, here probably introducing the formulas with a wish of 'May he live!' and detailing Pa-di-tu-Amun’s genealogy.

"Pa-di-tu-Amun’s descent from a line of men carrying the same title is mentioned repeatedly in the abundant inscriptions on the exterior of the coffin trough, often in association with images of Pa-di-tu-Amun before an enthroned deity. His father is named as Ipui-wer (Ipui the Elder), who also held the title of 'Chief of Servants/Weavers of the House of Amun, and the scribe of those who belong to the House of Amun.' The coffin owner’s grandfather is named as 'Chief of Servants/Weavers of the House of Amun' Userhet-mose, who might be associated with the owner of a coffin now in Cairo (Inv. 29661) found in the Bab el-Gasus cachette. The genealogy of a family featuring the names Ipui the Elder and Userhet-mose is also detailed on a Dynasty 22-23 block statue in Cairo from the Karnak Cachette and may represent descendants of the same family of priests....

"The interior of the coffin trough is dominated by a large mummiform figure of the god Osiris crowned with the nemes headdress and triple atef or hemhem-crown, standing atop the hieroglyph for gold. The name of 'Osiris, Foremost of the West[erners]' graces a cartouche in the location that would correspond to the location of the head of the mummy of the deceased, who is considered to be joined with Osiris. The figure of Osiris is surrounded by figures of the goddess of the West, the vulture goddess Nekhbet, falcon deities, a bearded serpent deity, a figure of Anubis, and shrines possibly representing Upper and Lower Egypt. Below the dominant image of Osiris are standing and kneeling figures of Isis flanking an anthropomorphic form of the djed-pillar, symbol of Osiris, holding the 'Isis knot' or tyet symbol in either hand. Jackal divinities in animal form flank the register below, followed by alternating djed and tyet symbols of Osiris and Isis, reinforcing the major theme of the coffin’s interior decoration.

"Either side of the mummy’s head is decorated on the trough interior with scenes of Pa-di-tu-Amun in the form of a standing mummy before the enthroned god Osiris. On either side of the coffin interior, Pa-di-tu-Amun kneels before a snake deity and Osiris. At the bottom on either side, the mummified Pa-di-tu-Amun stands before jackal-headed Anubis, protector of the cemetery (one figure is labeled as In(p)ut, a female jackal deity). Gender complexity is exemplified throughout the coffin’s text and decoration in various ways, including forms of Isis depicted as a bearded male deity. It is therefore difficult to disentangle the issues of coffin reuse for male and female owners from the issues of gender as they relate to the gender fluidity of ancient Egyptian religious concepts (for example, the inherent nature of female association with the male god Osiris upon death) – these rich complexities enhance rather than detract from the appeal of this coffin set."


The lot, which was the cover illustration of the catalogue, has an estimate on request.  It sold for $3,255,000 including the buyer's premium as do all results mentioned in this article.


Bes 457


Lot 457, an Egyptian "cosmetic" blue cosmetic vessel of Bes, Late Period, circa 664-404 B.C.  It is 3 3/16 inches high.


Another item from the Mougins Museum of Classical Art is Lot 457, an Egyptian "cosmetic" blue cosmetic vessel of Bes, Late Period, circa 664-404 B.C.  It is 3 3/16 inches high.


The catalogue provides the following commentary:


"Arguably the earliest documented image of Bes in Western literature, this upper portion of a finely crafted cosmetic vessel was fashioned in Egyptian blue, a form of frit.  First published in 1698 in the form of a woodcut accompanying a catalogue by a descendant of Michelangelo Buonarroti in the collection of Cardinal Carpegna, the image of the vessel predates the next known reference to a Bes image by more than a century...."


It has an estimate of $120,000 to $180,000.  It failed to sell.


Bes 461


Lot 461, Egyptian limestone Bes, Late Period, circa 664-404 BC, 8 1/4 inches high


Another Bes is Lot 461, Egyptian limestone piece from the same period.  It is 8 1/4 inches high and was loan to the Brooklyn Museum from 1968-2002.  It has an estimate of $25,000 to $35,000.  It failed to sell.


Gold tiara

Lot 437, a Greek gold oak wreath, Late Classical to Early Hellenistic Period, circa 4th-3rd Century, B.C., 17 1/2 inches wide

Lot 437 is a spectacular Greek gold oak wreath, Late Classical to Early Hellenistic Period, circa 4th-3rd Century, B.C., 17 1/2 inches wide.

The catalogue provides the following commentary:

"In ancient Greece, foliate wreaths fashioned from gold, mimicking natural forms such as laurel, myrtle, olive, ivy, and, as here, oak, were given as prizes, worn in processions or in the symposia, dedicated at sanctuaries and buried with the dead. Sanctuary dedications are mentioned in temple treasury lists from as early as the 5th century B.C., but surviving examples are few prior to the 4th century B.C. (see pp. 123-124 in R. Higgins, Greek and Roman Jewellery). The meaning of the different plant species employed for these wreaths is uncertain, but in the case of oak, there is at least a clear association with Zeus.

"Elaborate gold oak wreaths have been found in the Royal tombs at Vergina, including one placed within the gold larnax thought to have enclosed the remains of Philip II, father of Alexander the Great (see pl. 137 in M. Andronicos, Vergina, The Royal Tombs and the Ancient City), and another found in situ on the shoulders of a silver funerary hydria in the nearby so-called 'Prince’s Tomb' (pl. 184 in Andronicos, op. cit.). The large amount of gold that flowed into Macedonia and Greece following Alexander’s eastern campaigns led to a dramatic increase in jewelry production, and high quality works were now accessible to wider strata of society. As P. Adams-Veleni notes (pp. 102-103 in C.A. Picon and S. Hemingway, eds., Pergamon and the Hellenistic Kingdoms of the Ancient World), "Indeed, rather than a privilege of the gods, such wreaths were common among wealthy mortals, whom they accompanied after death to the eternal symposium in the beyond."

"Oak wreaths dated to the later 4th century B.C. have been found throughout the Hellenistic world, east and west. See for example the splendid example from the Dardanelles, now in the British Museum (no. 60 in D. Williams and J. Ogden, Greek Gold: Jewelry of the Classical World) and one from Armento in South Italy, now in Munich (pl. 23 in Higgins, op. cit.). Wreaths are also to be found on depictions of victorious athletes, including statues, coins and gems, although depending on the scale of the image, it is not always possible to identify the type of wreath intended (see pp. 145-162, and especially no. 156, a Hellenistic carnelian ring stone with an athlete holding a wreath, and fig. 9, a bronze figure of an athlete wearing a wreath, in J.J. Herrmann and C. Kondoleon, Games for the Gods, The Greek Athlete and The Olympic Spirit).

"The present example is composed of cut-out sheet-gold leaves, 104 in total, each on spiral-twisted wire and joined to ten stems radiating outward from a central ring. Four acorns are preserved on four of the stems."

The lot has an estimate of $150,000 to $250,000.  It sold for $325,000.

Granite sculpture of Amenhotep

Lot 450, Egyptian granite statue of Amenhotep, New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty, reign of Amenhotep II-Thutmosis IV, 1427-1390 B.C., 8 1/4 inches high

Lot 450, Egyptian granite statue of Amenhotep, New Kingdom, 18th Dynasty, reign of Amenhotep II-Thutmosis IV, 1427-1390 B.C., 8 1/4 inches high.

The lot was once with Robin Symes of London and Mr. and Mrs. Klaus Perls of New York.

It has an estimate of $100,000 to $150,000.  It failed to sell.

Lot 445, the Wald Dioscuri, Roman marble 445

Lot 445, Roman marble relief with the Dioscuri, Hadrianic Period, Early 2nd Century, A.D., 38 3/8 inches long

Lot 445 is a large Roman marble relief with the Dioscuri, Hadrianic Period, Early 2nd Century AD.  It is 38 3/8 inches long.  It has exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York from 2014 to 2019.

It has an estimate of $500,000 to $800,000.  It sold for $735,000.

Wadjet  458

Lot 458, an Egyptian bronze head of the goddess Wadjet, Late Period, 664-332 BC, 4 1/2 inches high

Lot 458 is a good Egyptian bronze head of the goddess Wadjet, Late Period, 664-332 BC.  It is 4 1/2 inches high.  It has an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000.  It failed to sell.

Osiris  454

Lot 454, an Egyptian bronze figure of Osiris, Third Intermediate Period to Late Period, Circas 1069-525 BC, 6 1/2 inches high

Lot 454, an Egyptian bronze figure of Osiris, Third Intermediate Period to Late Period, Circa 1069-525 BC.  It is 6 1/2 inches high.  It has an estimate of $30,000 to $60,000.  It failed to sell.

Mask of Silen 440


Lot 440, Roman bronze mask of Silen, circa 1st Century BC to 1st Century AD, 5 3/4 inches high

Lot 440, Roman bronze mask of Silen, circa 1st Century BC to 1st Century AD.  It is 5 3/4 inches high.  It has an estimate of $40,000 to $60,000.  It failed to sell.


See The City Review article on the Antiquities auction at Christie's New York October 25, 2016 with some great Roman marble statues of draped goddesses, a very fine gold Roman tiara and several excellent Egyptian bronzes (10/24/16, updated 12/15/16)

See The City Review article on the Antiquities auction at Christie's New York April 12, 2016 with several excellent Roman marbles (4/12/16, updated 4/18/16)

See The City Review article on the Antiquities auction at Sotheby's New York December 8, 2015 with John Lennon's large granite statue of Sekhmet, a great Egyptian steatite statue of Lady Iset, and a fine wood mummy mask (12/7/15, updated 12/22/15)

See The City Review article on the Antiquities Auction at Christie's New York December 9, 2015 with a very fine Hellenistic statue of a boy, several good bronze Egyptian statues of Bastet, and a good bronze Piravend figure of a woman (12/7/15, updated 12/16/15)

See The City Review article on the Fall 2015 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's New York

See The City Review article on the Fall 2015 Antiquities auction at Christie's New York

See The City Review article on the Spring 2015 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's New York

See The City Review article on Spring 2015 Antiquities auction at Christie's New York

See The City Review article on the Fall 2014 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's New York



See The City Review article on the Spring 2014 Antiquities auction at Christie's New York

See The City Review article on the Fall 2013 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's New York

See The City Review article on the Fall 2013 Antiquities auction at Christie's New York

See The City Review article on the Spring 2013 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's New York

See The City Review article on the Spring 2013 Antiquities auction at Christie's New York

See The City Review article on the Fall 2012 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's New York

See The City Review article on the Spring 2012 Antiquities auction at Christie's


See The City Review article on the Spring 2011 Antiquities auction at Christies

See The City Review article on the Spring 2011 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2010 Antiquities auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2010 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2010 Antiquities auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2010 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's

See The City Review article on the Fall 2009 Antiquities auction at Christie's


See The City Review article on the Fall 2009 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Spring 2009 Antiquities auction at Christie's
See The City Review article on the Spring 2009 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Fall 2008 Antiquities auction at Christie's
See The City Review article on the Fall 2008 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Spring 2008 Antiquities auction at Christie's
See The City Review article on the Spring 2008 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Fall 2007 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Spring 2007 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Spring 2007 Antiquities auction at Christie's
See The City Review article on the Fall 2006 Antiquities auction at Christie's
See The City Review Article on the Fall 2006 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Spring 2006 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Spring 2006 Antiquities auction at Christie's
See The City Review article on the Fall 2005 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Spring 2005 Antiquities auction at Christie's
See The City Review article on the Fall 2004 Antiquities auction at Christie's
See The City Review article on the Charles Pankow Collection of Egyptian Art auction December 8, 2004, at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the December 9, 2004 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Fall 2004 Antique Jewelry Auction at Christie's
See The City Review article on the Spring 2004 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review on the Spring 2004 Antiquities morning auction at Christie's
See The City Review on the Spring 2004 Antiquities afternoon auction of the Morven Collection of Ancient Art at Christie's
See The City Review article on the Fall 2003 Antiquities auction at Christie's
See The City Review article on the Fall 2003 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Spring 2003 Antiquities auction at Christie's
See The City Review article on the Spring 2003 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Fall 2002 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Antiquities and Antique Jewelry auctions Dec. 12-3, 2002 at Christie's
See The City Review article on the June 12, 2002 Antiquities auction at Christie's
See The City Review article on the Fall 2001 Antiquities auction at Christie's
See The City Review article on the Fall 2001 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Spring 2001 Antiquities auction at Christie's
See The City Review article on the Spring 2001 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Fall 2000 Antiquities auction at Christie's
See The City Review article on the Antiquities auction at Sotheby's Dec. 8, 2000
See The City Review article on the Dec. 6, 2000 auction of Ancient Jewelry and Seals at Christie's
See The City Review article on the Spring 2000 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Spring 2000 Ancient Greek Vases auction at Christie's

See The City Review article on the Spring 2000 Antiquities auction at Christie's
See The City Review article on the Fall 1999 Antiquities auction at Christie's
See The City Review article on the Antique Jewelry evening auction at Christies Dec. 8, 1999
See The City Review article on the Dec. 9, 1999 Antiquities evening auction at Sotheby's of the Christos G. Bastis Collection
See The City Review article on the Dec. 10, 1999 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the June 5, 1999 Antiquities Auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Fall 1998 Antiquities auctions at Sotheby's and Christie's
See The City Review article on the Spring 1998 Antiquities auctions at Sotheby's and Christie's
See The City Review article on the Fall 1997 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's
See The City Review article on the Spring 1997 Antiquities auction at Sotheby's

 


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