Egyptian mummy cartonnage

Title Cartonnage of Ip the Egyptian’s mummy
School Ancient Egypt
Date I –IV BC
Material Textile base, primer, paints
Workshop Objects Conservation

After two years of work the conservators of the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts and The Grabar Art Conservation Centre finished conservation of a mummy cartonnage that belonged to an Egyptian named Ip (I-IV BC, № I.1.а 1239). For the first time such cartonnages appeared in the New Kingdom (second half of II BC). A sarcophagus in a shape of a bounded mummy can be considered their prototype. A cartonnage is made of several layers of fabric or pressed papyri soaked in adhesives, covered with a thin layer of gypsum and painted. Cartonnage covers or cases covered a mummy whole, and were made with a special dummy, after it dried a cut was made at the back; it was used to extract the dummy and place the real mummy inside. Edges were connected with special linen binds that were threaded through the holes. Cartonnages were usually painted, much like sarcophagi. On Ip's cartonnage we can see a burial mask, a wig with its locks falling on the chest, a wide necklace with an image of Amun-Ra below (a ram's (his sacred animal) head, and the body of a female hawk, that represents his wife Mut). In the centre of the cartonnage there is a line written in characters.

Ip's mummy cartonnage was in a very bad condition, it was badly deformed and had through holes in several places; the textile deteriorated, the paint layer had numerous losses.

The Pushkin State and the Grabar Centre specialists performed conservation treatments using unique and highly complex methods, preceded by careful examination of the contents of the paint layers and adhesives, studying of the textile and reconstruction of the technology used to make the cartonnage.

Consolidation of the base destroyed in several places was a first priority task, since only that could stop the piece from further deterioration. Since several elements of the construction were lost, extra pressure fell onto the remaining parts of the cartonnage that started collapsing under its own weight and kept losing the base and paint layers.

A Styrofoam base imitating the outline of the cartonnage was made to give support to the collapsing cartonnage. The base was placed inside the case, making it possible to fix weakened textile layers and flaking base and paint layers. Conservation of the stiff parts of the textile base soaked with resins was especially difficult, given that they had thousands of years to get into that condition. O. Popova, a conservator who worked with the piece, had to consolidate the textile layers, mend the deformations, line the tears, and fill the losses.

The art conservators who work with polychrome sculpture – V. Symonov, L. Sinicyna and V. Filyayushkin consolidated the base and paint layers, removed the contaminations, and made the necessary fillings. As a result of using all these proven and safe conservation techniques and methods the ancient Egyptian piece's original look was restored.