Gilded mummy portrait of a woman

Probably from er-Rubayat, Egypt
Roman Period, about AD 160-170

The majority of mummy portraits that have survived have unfortunately become separated from the mummies to which they were attached. Because of this we rarely know the identities of the subjects. This portrait is one of the finest of those attributed to the cemetery of er-Rubayat in the Fayum. It is different from most panels from that site in its use of limewood instead of oak, and the encaustic painting technique, rather than tempera.

The woman's hair is arranged in the fashion of the mid-second century AD. She wears a gold wreath of leaves, an unusual purple tunic with gold bands, and a white mantle. Her earrings are made of emeralds set in gold, with suspended pearls. Her necklace is composed of a large emerald and a red stone (perhaps carnelian) in gold mounts and separated by gold plaques. The large brown eyes have individually painted lashes, and the complexion is delicately tinted with pink and ochre. The quality of the portrait and the lavishness of the lady's dress shows that she belonged to the highly Romanized élite.

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More information


E.R. Russmann, Eternal Egypt: masterworks of (University of California Press, 2001)

S. Walker and M. Bierbrier, Ancient faces: mummy portrai-1 (London, The British Museum Press, 1997)

S. Quirke and A.J. Spencer, The British Museum book of anc (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)


Height: 44.200 cm
Width: 20.000 cm

Museum number

EA 65346


Bequeathed by Sir Robert Ludwig Mond


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