Conservation Case Study: Mummy Mask
The object was a cartonnage mummy mask for a woman, from grave 2114 Sidmant, 9th Dynasty, about 2150-2080 BC. It was excavated by Flinders Petrie, who said of it, "The mask was fine and in perfect condition; it could never have been used on a body. From the sand sticking to it, it seems as if it had been dropped in while the paint was still soft" (Sedment II, p.12).
This is the best preserved of the 18 linen-cartonnage masks recovered from this cemetery.
The mask was on display, but was taken off because of cracks that were seriously affecting the stability of the cartonnage. This gave the Conservation Department the opportunity to have a close look at the materials composing the object to understand the damage and decide upon a suitable treatment. It could be seen that the cartonnage was made of different thicknesses of linen over which a layer of gesso had been applied. Colours of different pigments had been used for the features depicting the face, hair and necklace.
Research into treatments on similar objects was carried out to support the experience of the conservators involved in the project. The treatment carried out will allow the mask to go safely on display once again.