Make a Mummy Mask

Roman Egyptian Mummy Mask Musée du Louvre Papier Maché

I was really into masks last year.

After I learned how to make papier-mâché masks for Halloween, I started to see masks in every museum I visited. The obvious reaction? Copy them in papier-mâché.

My first museum-inspired mask was based on the deliciously grotesque horror masks of French 19th century artist Jean-Joseph Carriès. The project really helped me take in all the details of the artwork. And it was ridiculously fun.

My next mask? 

A Roman Egyptian mummy mask from the Musée du Louvre.

Roman Egyptian Mummy Mask Musée du Louvre

Basically, my choice was made as an excuse to buy gold paint.

These mummy masks were made at the time when Egypt was under Roman rule. While the gold skin was traditional, the masks were influenced by contemporary Greco-Roman models. 

I chose to copy this mask:

  © Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN / Georges Poncet

© Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN / Georges Poncet

The real challenge of making the clay base was figuring out how to replicate the hair: a Greco-Roman convention known as melon coiffure. I got creative and made rolls of tin foil that I taped across the forehead. 

The earrings also posed a problem: I wasn't sure how exaggerated to make them so that they would be legible in papier-mâché form.

Roman Egyptian Mummy Mask Musée du Louvre Papier Maché
Roman Egyptian Mummy Mask Musée du Louvre Papier Maché

I covered my mask with Scott Shop Towels and paste (from the recipe in How to Make Masks! by Jonni Good). I coated the mask with gesso to prepare it for painting.

Roman Egyptian Mummy Mask Musée du Louvre Papier Maché

And then... I moved from Paris to Montréal. I put the mask form in a box and didn't touch it for seven months. 

Finally, I felt ready to pick it up again this month. I applied a coat of reddish brown paint under the hair and headpiece. 

Roman Egyptian Mummy Mask Musée du Louvre Papier Maché

The gold paint was so much fun to apply! But I was so nervous about painting the black of the eyes and eyebrows; it felt like applying detailed make-up on someone else's face.

I covered the mask with acrylic glazing liquid mixed with black paint to age the gold and the whites of the eyes.

Et voilà !

Roman Egyptian Mummy Mask Musée du Louvre Papier Maché

I am pleased with the result, though I do think I went a tad overboard on making the nose crooked... 

  © Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN / Georges Poncet

© Musée du Louvre, dist. RMN / Georges Poncet

Roman Egyptian Mummy Mask Musée du Louvre Papier Maché

It really is true that copying an artwork helps you look at it differently, carefully, closely. For example, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam started #StartDrawing, encouraging visitors to draw in its galleries rather than take photos. 

I was excited to add the latest mask to the wall of honor:

Roman Egyptian Mummy Mask Musée du Louvre Papier Maché

Musée du Louvre (Denon wing)

AddressPalais du Louvre 75001 Paris  ∣  MétroPalais-Royal Musée du Louvre (line 1 or 7) ∣ Opening hoursWednesday to Monday from 9am to 6pm, open until 9:45pm on Wednesday and Friday


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