Cartonnage: Fragments of a Mummy Wrapping (Part I)

Cartonnage is the painted material that covers many mummy bundles.  Like a plaster cast, it is made of layers of fabric (usually linen) that are wrapped around the bundle and then covered with a smooth, white layer of plaster.  After it is dry, the plaster surface can be painted with designs and Egyptian religious symbols.

Mummy and painted cartonnage of an unknown woman.  Egyptian, ca. 850-750 B.C.E.Walters Art Museum, 79.1
Mummy and painted cartonnage of an unknown woman. Egyptian, ca. 850-750 B.C.E.
Walters Art Museum, 79.1
Side view.  Walters Art Museum, 79.1
Side view.
Walters Art Museum, 79.1

The Walters Art Museum includes a number of examples of cartonnage, including several small fragments.  One of these fragments was recently in the Objects Conservation lab so that conservators could evaluate its condition and make recommendations about how best to preserve it.

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Consider the Coconut

Today, coconut is a common food, whether baked in a cake, stirred into a curry, or eaten fresh from the shell.  Because it is possible to buy coconuts at nearly any supermarket or grocery store, they are not considered especially rare or unusual.  But this has not always been the case.

A cross-section of a whole coconut.  The smooth, greenish skin and fibrous brown husk (also known as coir) are typically removed before coconuts are shipped to stores.  The copra, or interior of the coconut, contains the white flesh and coconut milk, both of which can be eaten.  The thin, dark shell can be used for a variety of purposes, and is sometimes incorporated into art objects.
A cross-section of a whole coconut. The smooth, greenish skin and fibrous brown husk (also known as coir) are typically removed before coconuts are shipped to stores. The copra, or interior of the coconut, contains the white flesh and coconut milk, both of which can be eaten. The thin, dark shell can be used for a variety of purposes, and is sometimes incorporated into art objects.

Coconut palms are not native to Europe, and in the past coconuts were imported or traded from faraway places in Asia and the new world.  The rarity, cost, and exotic nature of coconut shells meant that they were often treated as precious materials and mounted with silver, gold, enamels, or jewels.  During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, coconuts were often included in treasuries and chambers of wonders.

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Henry Walters’s Watches

The Walters Art Museum contains a large collection of historic watches, many of which were collected by Henry Walters. Mr. Walters appears to have collected the watches mainly with an eye toward the beauty of their cases. Many of the watch cases qualify as miniature works of art in enamel, metalwork, and gemstone; yet recent conservation work has shown that the clockworks inside the cases may often be later replacements, pastiches, or else incomplete and non-functional.

The Walters Art Museum contains a large collection of historic watches, many of which were collected by Henry Walters.  Mr. Walters appears to have collected the watches mainly with an eye toward the beauty of their cases.  Many of the watch cases qualify as miniature works of art in enamel, metalwork, and gemstone; yet recent conservation work has shown that the clockworks inside the cases may often be later replacements, pastiches, or else incomplete and non-functional.

Henry Walters’s interest in the exterior beauty of his watches is evident in the care he took to display them in his personal collection.  The archives of the Walters Art Museum include Mr. Walters’s design sketches for watch display stands, as well as several surviving examples of the finished product.

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