Human-headed canopic jar lid

Egypt, Late Period (664 – 332 BCE)

REF No.10107 clay canopic jar lid
H 7.5 x H 7.5 x D 7.6 cm
damaged, missing inferior right part of chin

The clay human-head dates from the Late Period and would have most likely been part of a canopic (funeral) vase. The head bears a black wig with incised continuous horizontal lines, and which passes completely behind the ears, leaving the later quiet visible. The face has a red coloring to it, contrasting against the blackness of the wig. The brows, the eyes, the nose and the mouth are all lined with black paint. The eyes are highlighted all-around in order to imitate the kohl make-up style that extends itself up until the temples of the face.
There are faint traces of black coloring on the cheeks.
The head is damaged on the inferior right part of the face, leaving a small trace of a false (green colored) beard.
In Ancient Egypt, we often find canopic jars and small statues resting near the body of the dead. The canopic jars were used to place the vital organs of the dead after the embalming and mummification process. The first canopic jars, the most ancient ones dating to Cheops’ mother grave at around 2600 BCE, used to have a simple unadorned convex lids. They are always found in sets of fours and are generally placed in a canopic coffer also divided into four compartments, which is then placed next to the deceased. Each of the four canopic jars represented one of the four sons of Horus : Imsety (associated to the liver), Hapy (associated to the lungs), Duamutef (associated to the stomach) and Qebehsenuef (associated to the intestines). Each of the four sons in their turn were protected by other divinities : Isis, Nephthys, Neith and Selkit. The jars are called canopic jars because it was during the IX and X dynasties that there was the transition from simple lids to the representation of human or animal heads. The representation of a head refers to the Egyptian god Canope, dating from the Ptolemaic period, who according to legend died in Egypt, and was later venerated in the form of a jar generally containing water from the Nile.
Provenance: private Parisian collection Literature: For further comparisons, check the Museum of Fine Arts of Boston catalogue.

Bibliography
Musée égyptien de Turin, « Civilisation des égyptiens, les croyances religieuses », Milan, 1988

Museum of Fine Arts of Boston, « The Funerary Arts of Ancient Egypt », Massachusetts, 1988

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