Published: December 5, 2000
HOUSTON, TEX. – The 2,300-year-old coffin of an Egyptian priest and four companion statues have been acquired by the Museum of Fine Arts. And are on view in the Jamail Atrium on the second level of the Audrey Jones Beck Building, 5601 Main Street.
The Egyptian coffin was created for Pedi-Osiris, a priest of Osiris, god of the underworld. Pedi-Osiris lived between 350 BC and 30 AD, the centuries of Greek rule of Egypt after Alexander the Great’s conquest. The coffin is over seven feet tall and proportionally broad, indicating that the deceased had been mummified and wrapped in multiple layers of linen cloth.
On the front of the coffin is a likeness of Pedi-Osiris with a gilded face, exotic black-lined eyes, a fake beard (a symbol of high rank), an elaborate head cloth painted rich azure blue, numerous painted necklaces, and vermilion clothing covered with a net of painted beads. The likeness is further decorated with stunning imagery of gods, goddesses, and animals.
On the central back panel of the coffin is a painting of the mummy of Pedi-Osiris lying on a majestic stone and bronze funeral bed in the form of a lion. That is one of five vertical scenes on the back of the coffin, each of which is flanked with deities. Both the artistic work on the coffin and its condition are exceptional.
The four companion statues range in height from 24 inches to 31 inches. Such statues or the bases on which they stand were often hollow and held scrolls inscribed with the texts of the Books of the Dead. These bases, however, are solid. Two of the companion statues depict a trinity deity called Ptah-Sokar-Osiris- a combination of Ptah, god of artists and craftsman, Sokar, a god of fertility, and Osiris, god of the underworld. The largest of the four is inscribed “Ankh-Hapi, son of Pedi-Osiris,” suggesting that the son was eventually buried with his father. All are made of wood with polychrome and gold.
The museum is open Tuesday, Wednesday, and Saturday, 10 am – 7 pm; Thursday and Friday, 10am – 9 pm and Sunday, 12:15 – 7 pm.
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