Sandro Vannini’s Photography – King Tut’s Golden Death Mask

The Golden Mask of King Tutankhamun may just be the most stunning artefact from ancient times that archaeologists have ever excavated. The fact that King Tut was a mere minor Pharaoh leaves the funerary gifts offered to the great ones up to our imagination, insofar as imagining such splendour and richness both in value and craftsmanship. As the golden death mask is too fragile to travel, there is no way to see the famous mask unless you travel to Cairo – or is there? The closest you’ll get to experiencing the real thing online is a collection of amazingly detailed photographs by Sandro Vannini, who has over time become an expert in capturing ancient Egyptian artefacts on film, and the virtual experience based on Sandro’s photographs, the King Tut Virtual exhibition.

The Golden Mask of King Tutankhamun
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‘King Tut Mask’ Slideshow

Heritage Key is working together with Sandro in making these images, that will arouse any Egyptophile, available on the internet. To watch a slideshow of King Tut’s Death Mask, just click the image on the right.

See it for yourself in King Tut VX

To get an immersing, 360 degree view of the golden mask in 3D, all you need to do is get your avatar, go virtual and start exploring King Tut Virtual. The video below holds a quick preview, but this is nothing compared to standing directly next to the mask, close enough to (virtually) touch it.

Sandro Vannini’s Photography

What makes Sandro’s pics so sublime? Attention for detail and skills gathered over the years in snapping the Gold Mask of King Tut bring out its stunning gold and beautiful precious stones. Of course, the equipment Sandro uses plays a role too: a Hasselblad ELD Ixpress 528C camera. And, of course, the light setup: Gold is a difficult material to photograph correctly, such as in this beautiful Golden Mask, says Sandro. There are so many different alloys, depending on the amount of gold and the combined metal used. All gold is a unique shade, requiring specific lighting set-ups.

So for those of you who cant make the trip to Cairo, we at Heritage Key offer these stunning photographs by world-class photographer Sandro Vannini which capture the beauty and magnificence of King Tutankhamuns Golden Mask. But it doesnt stop there: you can visit virtual replicas of the Golden Mask and other Tutankhamun treasures in the Heritage Key VX King Tut exhibition, which features a digital recreation of the breath-taking artefact.

Don’t miss out on new treasures!

This post is just the first of many focussing on amazing photographs from ancient Egypt. Keep checking back as well keep adding new images by Sandro Vannini. To make sure you don’t miss out on any of the updates, simply subscribe by email to receive notifications when new images are uploaded. For the more digitally advanced, there’s also an RSS feed with updates available.

Suggest a Featured Artefact

We’re taking suggestions! which of King Tut’s treasures you would love to see highlighted on Heritage Key, and we’ll consult Sandro’s extensive archives to see what we can find for you!

Ask Sandro

We’ll be sitting down with our favourite photographer for an extended chat soon, so if you have any questions for Sandro we’ll send the answers straight to you!

The Golden Mask:Facts &Figures

The Golden Mask, created in 1324 BC for the 18th Dynasty boy-king, was discovered when Howard Carter unearthed Tomb KV62 in the Valley of the Kings on his Lord Carnarvon-funded 1922 expedition. Carter had to make a decision whether to remove the mask and risk damaging the mummy, or leave it in place and exhibit the mummy with the mask. In the end the mask was removed and put on display, and its radiating beauty shines through these spectacular pictures.

Gold is the main element of the mask, with the bulk formed by two sheets hammered together; thought by the Ancient Egyptians to emulate the flesh of the gods. It was then shaped into a likeness of King Tut, replete with striped nemes headcloth. The headcloth was formed using inlays of semi-precious stones and coloured glass, which bring out its detail and vibrant colours.

The white eyes were made from quartz, while the pupils were produced from obsidian – with a little red paint used on the corners of the eyes to give them that edge of realism. The radiance of the mask was further enhanced by a sheer layer of silver-rich gold, added to the burnished surface of the face. These images by Sandro show very well the Lapis lazuli in the mask, responsible for the Pharaoh’s deep blue eyebrows.

Upon discovery the earlobes of King Tuts death mask were covered in gold foil, but this was later removed. The mask’s forehead is adorned with a vulture and cobra made of solid gold with inlays of lapis lazuli, carnelian, faence and glass, and represents the protective goddesses of Egypt (The vulture represented Upper Egypt, the cobra Lower). The long, curling beard of the mask, representing divinity, is made from blue glass with a frame of gold.

Engraved into the back and shoulders of the mask are ten lines of hieroglyphic text. These scribe a protection formula, referring to different parts of the body and how they relate to the mask – and its connection to gods and goddesses, thereby protecting King Tuts body in the afterlife. Translated, the text reads:

Your face is Anubis, your right eye is the night boat,
your left eye is the diurnal boat,
your eyebrows correspond to the companion of the nine gods.

King Tutankhamuns Mask has remained in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo since the 1980s, from where Dr. Zahi Hawass insists itll never be moved again due to its fragility. It remains the star attraction for the thousands who flock to the famed museum.

MOVIE: King Tut’s Death Mask on display in Heritage Key VX

Click Play to watch a video of the Golden Mask in Heritage Key VX.

King Tut Virtual is one of the greatest discoveries you can make online. Click your mouse to travel across time and place to explore King Tutankhamun’s tomb in the digital, online Valley of the Kings. Zoom-in and get up-close to some of the most amazing artefacts ever found. Wander the banks of Nile and enjoy a feeling of life in ancient times. The details and realism will astound you. You can invite your friends to join you on this adventure as well as meet people from all over the world in this exciting online environment. Explore the Boy King’s treasures, go virtual and visit the King Tut exhibition nowor learn more about Tutankhamun!