Framed portrait of a woman, with cord for suspension

Roman, made in Egypt about AD 50-70.
Excavated by Flinders Petrie at Hawara, Egypt

A momento of a loved one?

The portrait is badly damaged, with more than half of the paint flaked and missing. What remains is part of the face and the shoulders of a woman dressed in a pink tunic and wearing pearl earrings. In contrast, the morticed frame is in good condition, and still preserves the cord (of palm fibre) by which the portrait was suspended. A grooved channel at the front of the frame suggests it originally had a protective cover of wood, or less likely, glass, which is now missing.

The painting was executed in the tempera technique: the pigment is mixed with wax to give an effect similar to oil-paint. Although it was found in a grave, the size of the portrait suggests that it is not a 'mummy portrait', used to cover the face of the deceased. Instead, this piece seems to have been used as a portrait within a home and must have been particularly important to the person with whose mummy it was buried: the portrait was propped against the legs, facing inwards. Sadly we know nothing of this mummy, which had no mummy portrait and was not identified by the excavator, Flinders Petrie.

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More information


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

W.M.F. Petrie, Hawara, Brahma and Arsinoe (London, Field & Tuer, 1889)


Height: 45.750 cm

Museum number

GR 1889.10-18.1 (Paintings 85)


Gift of W.M. Flinders Petrie


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