Nedjemankh and His Gilded Coffin – Egyptian Art at The Met

2017.255a, b
Nedjemankh 3  detail

Detail: Gilded Coffin Lid for the Priest Nedjemankh (detail). Late Ptolemaic Period (150–50 B.C.). Cartonnage, gold, silver, resin, glass, wood. Purchase, 2017 Benefit Fund; Lila Acheson Wallace Gift; Louis V. Bell, Harris Brisbane Dick, Fletcher, and Rogers Funds and Joseph Pulitzer Bequest; Leona Sobel Education and The Camille M. Lownds Funds; and 2016 Benefit Fund, 2017 (2017.255b). Image courtesy ©The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The gilded coffin of Nedjemankh, a priest of ancient Egypt, will go on display at The Met Fifth Avenue in New York, July 20 – April 21, 2019.

Distinctive installations in the exhibition Nedjemankh and his Gilded Coffin consists of some seventy-other works, including an imitation leopard skin once worn by a priest and a display of funerary objects depicted in a scene on the coffin.

Nedjemankh 2

Gilded Coffin Lid for the Priest Nedjemankh (detail). Late Ptolemaic Period (150–50 B.C.). Cartonnage, gold, silver, resin, glass, wood. Purchase, 2017 Benefit Fund; Lila Acheson Wallace Gift; Louis V. Bell, Harris Brisbane Dick, Fletcher, and Rogers Funds and Joseph Pulitzer Bequest; Leona Sobel Education and The Camille M. Lownds Funds; and 2016 Benefit Fund, 2017 (2017.255b). Image courtesy ©The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Extremely rare, the coffin is made of cartonnage (layers of textile stiffened with glue and covered with plaster) and has an elaborately decorated surface sheathed in gold, also representing permanency.

Ancient Egyptians prized gold for its many virtues: mythical, religious and symbolic. They desired it as a symbol of survival and eternity, which they summed up in the simple phrase “Gold is the flesh of the Gods’.

Gold work from ancient Egypt demonstrates artistic elegance and a certain intimacy in the way it was worked. It was symbolic of the Sun and the attribute of truth personified, because it revealed all by its light.

It was also a source of light and heat and so, consequently, it meant life to the whole world.

Scenes and texts produced in thick gesso relief were intended to protect and guide Nedjemankh on his journey from death to eternal life as a transfigured spirit.

On the interior of the lid are thin sheets of silver foil, which was symbolic of the moon and far less common than gold. Silver was also considered to be the ‘bones of the gods’, and on more specific level, associated during the first millennium BCE, with the eyes of the cosmic deity and ram God Heryshaf whom Nedjemankh served.

Heryshaf received the homage of all other deities.

Nedjemankh 1

Detail: Gilded Coffin Lid for the Priest Nedjemankh (detail). Late Ptolemaic Period (150–50 B.C.). Cartonnage, gold, silver, resin, glass, wood. Purchase, 2017 Benefit Fund; Lila Acheson Wallace Gift; Louis V. Bell, Harris Brisbane Dick, Fletcher, and Rogers Funds and Joseph Pulitzer Bequest; Leona Sobel Education and The Camille M. Lownds Funds; and 2016 Benefit Fund, 2017 (2017.255b). Image courtesy ©The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Officially exported from Egypt in 1971, the coffin resided in a private collection until it joined the Museum’s renowned ancient Egyptian collection, one of the finest and most comprehensive in the world, in 2017.

The ancient Egyptians established a civilisation that was envied and admired for 3000 years. They cultivated their fields, learned how to store crops against times of famine and to gauge the rhythm of the river Nile, central to both the organization and political unification of their country.

Ancient Egyptians had access to precious metals throughout, what modern archaeologists have recorded as the dynastic period, the dating of which began c 3100 BCE with the 1st Dynasty until the 26th dynasty of 664 – 525 BCE.

The later dynastic period from the 27th – 30th dynasties was ruled first by Persian and then Macedonian Kings and then the Graeco-Roman period that followed both these dates from Ptolemy 1 305 BCE and ends with the Islamic conquest of Egypt in 641 ACE.

Wine Harvest in Ancient Egypt, wall painting

Wine Harvest in Ancient Egypt, wall painting

The most potent force of ancient Egyptian culture is that in their approach to, and understanding of their daily existence, their religion and their lives were interchangeable and interdependent. They did not seek to separate themselves from their faith, beliefs or actions.

The exhibition is organized by Diana Craig Patch, the Lila Acheson Wallace Curator in Charge of the Department of Egyptian Art; Janice Kamrin, Associate Curator; and Niv Allon, Assistant Curator. An education program for both adults and children will be available.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2018

Nedjemankh 1

Detail: Gilded Coffin Lid for the Priest Nedjemankh (detail). Late Ptolemaic Period (150–50 B.C.). Cartonnage, gold, silver, resin, glass, wood. Purchase, 2017 Benefit Fund; Lila Acheson Wallace Gift; Louis V. Bell, Harris Brisbane Dick, Fletcher, and Rogers Funds and Joseph Pulitzer Bequest; Leona Sobel Education and The Camille M. Lownds Funds; and 2016 Benefit Fund, 2017 (2017.255b). Image courtesy ©The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Nedjemankh and His Gilded Coffin

July 20 – April 21, 2019

The Met Fifth Avenue
New York

 

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