The front of Tut's painted chest, Cairo Museum © Nile Muse 2003
Tutankhamun's painted chest was predicted by Howard Carter to "probably rank as one of the greatest artistic treasures of the tomb." The excavators said they could hardly tear themselves away from it.1
There is no front or back since the chest's lid is not hinged, but simply lifts off. This side currently faces away from the wall at the Cairo Museum. The panel on this side depicts Tut in his chariot facing right trampling Asians. A closeup2 reveals that Tut's mouth turns downward in a look of serious determination as he aims his arrow.
Both horses leap forward rearing on hind legs, wide eyed without blinkers. The near horse's tongue hangs out. Slight shading darkens all the lower legs of this perfectly matched team of chestnut horses with pale red cropped manes. Intricate painted details of the horses' blanket are slightly raised, with gold flecking in the pale details, like gold dust.5 Rings, stripes, dots and tassels decorate the blanket. Plumed headdresses rise from caps on the crests of the horses' necks.
Each side of the casket, as Carter referred to it, features a miniature tableau only about nine inches high. Carter effused further:
"Its outer face was completely covered with gesso; upon this prepared surface there were a series of brilliantly coloured and exquisitely painted designs—hunting scenes upon the curved panels of the lid, battle scenes upon the sides, and upon the ends representations of the king in lion form, trampling his enemies under his feet. The illustrations (Burton's photos)… give but a faint idea of the delicacy of the painting, which far surpasses anything of the kind that Egypt has yet produced. No photograph could do it justice, for even in the original a magnifying glass is essential to a due appreciation of the smaller details, such as the stippling of the lions' coats, or the decoration of the horses' trappings."
…They remind you of…the finest Persian miniatures…" 1
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