Outermost Coffin, spring 1926
Harry Burton (English, 1879–1940)
The Egyptian Expedition of The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Gelatin silver print; 6 1/2 x 8 5/8 in. (16.5 x 21.9 cm)
The most haunting image of Burton's entire Tutankhamun portfolio is this detail of the king's outer coffin. Burton's unusual cropping, which isolates the golden vulture and cobra goddesses of Upper and Lower Egypt and the astonishingly lifelike eyes of the pharaoh, creates a dynamic tension that pulls one's focus back and forth between Tutankhamun's divine and mortal personas.
Made of cornflowers clasped in olive leaves that were wrapped around a core of papyrus pith, the wreath—a last gift to the young pharaoh—was extremely fragile after more than 3,000 years and fell to pieces when removed.