By Steven Adamo
For the first time, an Egyptian mummy was brought to East Los Angeles and revealed at the Vincent Price Art Museum Saturday during the opening of “Passing Through the Underworld: Egyptian Art.”
The mummy is of an individual named Tastetnethor and is from the 22nd to 24th Dynasty, 945-700 BCE. The mummy set comes in four pieces: the wood coffin containing the human remains of Tastetnethor, the coffin base, and two coffin lids.
The two coffin lids are immediately visible upon entering the room, both standing vertically and encased in glass. For its age, the condition of these artifacts is extraordinary, and dated from 1000-968 BCE, the lids are made of wood, gesso, polychrome decoration and yellow varnish.
The coffin, cartonnage and mummy are displayed horizontally in front of the coffin lids. The coffin, dated at 945-720 BCE, is made of wood and is detailed beautifully with intricately-painted hieroglyphics and illustrations. “It has really cool mythological scenes all around the exterior,” Nancy Thomas, a Deputy Director at Los Angeles County Museum of Art said.
The mummy is on long-term loan from the Museum of Fine Arts Boston and includes the cartonnage, which is a material used for Ancient Egyptian funerary masks and made out of layers of linen, papyrus and plaster. Though damaged by grave robbers, the mummy was repaired after it was received from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
The wood of the mummy piece, and anything in the show that is organic, is sensitive to the climate. “It has to be 69 degrees to 71 degrees, and the humidity is plus/minus two-and-a-half, set at 50,” VPAM Preparator Victor Parra said.
The VPAM and LACMA have been monitoring multiple systems in order to ensure the safety of these delicate materials. The heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system, which is currently in place at the VPAM, has external readings that are read electronically by the campus.
Handheld devices are also used to get temperature readings from the walls. Another device gives reading through WI-FI that are read at LACMA.
“We’ve been tweaking our system to be at the right place where everyone feels comfortable,” Director of the VPAM Pilar Tompkins Rivas said.
Even though the readings could be determined remotely, LACMA and VPAM staff were present during the installation process to ensure the readings are correct.
The installation of the mummy came after most of the show was already set up. Both LACMA and a company called Artex Fine Art Services were in charge of the moving and installation.
The mummy set arrived in crates and was moved into the VPAM 72 hours prior to the opening Saturday.
The mummy and other ancient artifacts will be on display at the VPAM until Dec. 8.
More information is available on the mummy from VPAM staff, and next week LACMA will provide printed informational packets to visitors. Admission is free and open to the public.