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 Lot 45 An Egyptian encaustic on wood mummy portrait of a woman, Hadrianic Period, circa 2nd century A.D., 12 1/16 in. (30.6 cm.) long. Estimate: $150,000-250,000 Lot 46. An Egyptian encaustic on wood mummy portrait of a bearded man, Hadrianic Period, circa 2nd century A.D., 12 ¼ in. (31.1 cm.) long. Estimate: $100,000-150,000. © Christie’s Images Limited 2016.

NEW YORK, NY.- On October 25, Christie’s sale of Antiquities presents two important Egyptian portraits on behalf of the heirs of Rudolf Mosse. Hauntingly lifelike, these remarkable portraits, an Egyptian encaustic on wood mummy portrait of a woman, Hadrianic period, circa 2nd century AD (estimate: $150,000-250,000) and an Egyptian encaustic on wood mummy portrait of a bearded man, circa 1st century AD (estimate: $100,000-150,000), are among the most extraordinary artistic achievements to survive from antiquity. 

Egyptian mummy portraits date from the mid-1st to the 3rd century AD, and while they have been found in many sites throughout Egypt, they were discovered most prominently in the Fayum, which provided the generic name for all such painted portraits. These mummy portraits from Roman Egypt are among the most remarkable survivors from the ancient world, providing insight into Romano-Egyptian burial customs as well as style and fashion trends from the 1st-3rd century A.D.  

These works were originally part of the extraordinary collection of Rudolf Mosse (1843 – 1920), the founder of a successful publishing and advertising company in Germany, which included the flagship newspaper Berliner Tageblatt. Mosse was a patron of the eminent Egyptologist Karl Brugsch and it seems likely that the mummy portraits were acquired from him. Following his death, the collection was inherited by his daughter Felicia Lachmann-Mosse. Within months of Hitler’s rise to power in 1933, the family was forced to flee Germany, and their publishing company, private assets and art collection were expropriated by the Nazi party. The art collection was ‘plucked’ by prominent Nazi supporters, and subsequently disbursed by auction.  

These portraits were acquired in 1934 by Erich Maria Remarque, author of All Quiet on the Western Front, and bought in 1979 by the University of Zürich from his widow, the actress Paulette Goddard- Remarque. Research by the University of Zürich led to their repatriation in 2015 to the Mosse Art Restitution Project.

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Lot 45 An Egyptian encaustic on wood mummy portrait of a woman, Hadrianic Period, circa 2nd century A.D., 12 1/16 in. (30.6 cm.) long. Estimate: $150,000-250,000. © Christie’s Images Limited 2016.

Provenance: Rudolf Mosse (1843-1920), Berlin; thence by descent to his daughter, Felicia Lachmann-Mosse.
Seized by the Nazi Party in 1933.
Kunstsammlung Rudolf Mosse, Berlin; Rudolph Lepke Kunst-Auctions-Haus, Berlin, 29-30 May 1934, lot 158 (part). 
Erich Maria Remarque (1898-1970), author of All's Quiet on the Western Front, and his wife Paulette Goddard-Remarque, Germany and Switzerland, 1934-1979.
The University of Zurich, acquired from the above, 1979.
Restituted to the Mosse Art Restitution Project, Berlin, 2015.

Property recently restitued to heirs of Rudolf Mosse

LiteratureR.D. Gempeler, Werke der Antike im Kunsthaus Zürich, Zurich, 1976, p. 102, no. 1, fig. 30a.
B. Borg, Mumienporträts, Chronologie und kultureller Kontext, Mainz, 1996, pp. 13, 55, 171.
K. Parlasca and H.G. Frenz, Ritratti di Mummie, Serie B -Volume IV, Repertorio d'Arte dell'Egitto Greco-Romano, Rome, 2003, no. 61, pl. IV.

NotesRudolf Mosse was a successful entrepreneur, progressive political thinker and philanthropist in the late 19th and early 20th century. He founded a publishing and advertising conglomerate that included theBerliner Tageblatt, an early and outspoken critic of the Nazi party. Mosse was a devoted patron of the arts, particularly in the field of Egyptology and sponsored digs led by Karl Brugsch, whose excavations yielded the foundation for what is now the Cairo Museum. It is likely that the Fayum portraits offered in this sale were a result of this relationship. 

When Hitler's party rose to power in 1933, 13 years after Mosse's death, his daughter and sole heir Felicia Lachmann-Mosse and her husband, Hans Lachmann-Mosse, the publisher of the Berliner Tageblatt, were forced to leave Germany while their considerable art collection was seized. In 1934, the collection was disbursed, and the Fayum portraits were acquired by Erich Maria Remarque, author of the World World I novel, All's Quiet on the Western Front, and his wife, the actress Paulette Goddard-Remarque. In 1979, the University of Zurich acquired both portraits from Mrs. Remarque. The works are now being sold on behalf of the Mosse Foundation, which represents the current heirs of Felicia Lachmann-Mosse.

Painted mummy portraits are the most significant body of material for the study of Roman portrait painting in existence. As such, they provide insight into Romano-Egyptian burial customs as well as style and fashion trends from the 1st-3rd century A.D. Exactly how they were used before being bound and wrapped onto the head of mummies is unclear. One discovery suggests that they hung in frames in homes until eventually they were placed over the mummy. It has also been suggested that they were painted close to the time of death and carried around the local city during a procession (ekphora) celebrating the deceased before being taken to the embalmer. These portraits were named after the Fayum oasis where a large number have been found. The two portraits from Rudolf Mosse's collection are exceptional examples. 

This female portrait dates to the Hadrianic period on account of her distinctive hairstyle, worn up with a single braid encircling the crown. Her earrings are also common to this period. The gold necklace withlunula pendant was more common in the 1st century A.D., suggesting it may be an heirloom. For a similar portrait in the Louvre, see no. 109 in E. Doxiadis, The Mysterious Fayum Portraits, Faces from Ancient Egypt.

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Lot 46. An Egyptian encaustic on wood mummy portrait of a bearded man, Hadrianic Period, circa 2nd century A.D., 12 ¼ in. (31.1 cm.) long. Estimate: $100,000-150,000. © Christie’s Images Limited 2016.

Provenance: Rudolf Mosse (1843-1920), Berlin; thence by descent to his daughter, Felicia Lachmann-Mosse.
Seized by the Nazi Party in 1933.
Kunstsammlung Rudolf Mosse, Berlin; Rudolph Lepke Kunst-Auctions-Haus, Berlin, 29-30 May 1934, lot 158 (part). 
Erich Maria Remarque (1898-1970), author of All's Quiet on the Western Front, and his wife Paulette Goddard-Remarque, Germany and Switzerland, 1934-1979.
The University of Zurich, acquired from the above, 1979.
Restituted to the Mosse Art Restitution Project, Berlin, 2015.

Property recently restitued to heirs of Rudolf Mosse

LiteratureR.D. Gempeler, Werke der Antike im Kunsthaus Zürich, Zurich, 1976, p. 110, no. 4, fig. 30d.
B. Borg, Mumienporträts, Chronologie und kultureller Kontext, Mainz, 1996, p. 72.
K. Parlasca and H.G. Frenz, Ritratti di Mummie, Serie B -Volume IV, Repertorio d'Arte dell'Egitto Greco-Romano, Rome, 2003, no. 379, pl. IX.

NoteThe careworn expression and somewhat unkempt hair suggest that this man might have been a solider. His plain white tunic however shows no military accouterments, which may be a result of the damage to his left shoulder. Like the female portrait also from the Mosse collection, this piece can be dated to the Hadrianic period based on the hairstyle and facial hair.