In June of 1889, while at the asylum in Saint-Remy, Van Gogh created a drawing with blue and black chalk, on bluish gray Ingres paper titled Mask of an Egyptian Mummy. Shortly before his death, in July of 1890, Van Gogh executed three more drawings of the same subject one with blue caulk and the others with black. Each is titled Mask of an Egyptian Mummy.
In May of 1890, Van Gogh left the hospital and moved to Auvers-sur-Oise. In June he painted a number of portraits as well as several other works. In many we see him returning to memories of the past. Perhaps his original mummy drawing was something he wished to experiment with further. In a letter to his brother on June 9, 1889 Van Gogh expresses his fascination with Egyptian art:
“Now what makes Egyptian art, for instance, extraordinary – isn’t it that these serene, calm kings, wise and gentle, patient and kind, look as though they could never be other than what they are, eternal tillers of the soil, worshippers of the sun?
I should so have liked to have seen an Egyptian house at the exhibition constructed by Jules Garnier the architect – painted in red, yellow, and blue, with a garden regularly divided into beds by rows of bricks – the dwelling place of beings whom we know only as mummies or in granite.
But then to come back to the point, the Egyptian artists, having faith, working by feeling and by instinct, express all these intangible things – kindness, infinite patience, wisdom, serenity – by a few knowing curves and by the marvellous proportions. That is to say once more, when the thing represented and the manner of representing it agree, the thing has style and quality.”
All four of the Mask of an Egyptian Mummy drawings are owned by the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.