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  • Object type

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  • Description

    Portrait of a woman in encaustic on limewood: the panel is fissured at the left side and an unfortunate early attempt at conservation has damaged the proper right eye and brow. The surface is lightly coated with paraffin wax. The background is greenish grey.

    The subject, of refined appearance, wears a plain white tunic beneath a magenta mantle, the folds indicated in darker paint. The mantle appears to swathe the subject in a manner strongly reminiscent of sculptured stone and terracotta busts of the day, especially those from the North African provinces.

    The jewellery comprises two gold circular hoop earrings with pendant pearls and two necklaces, the upper of emerald beads linked with gold, and the lower a twisted gold chain. The hair is waved back from the face with a few snail curls around the central parting. The bun towards the rear is sketchily painted in lighter grey. A few strands escape around the outer edge of the coiffure.

    The dark brown eyes have flat lower lids; the strongly arched eyebrows meet above the long nose. The closed lips are orangey pink. Cream highlights are used in the centre of the face, which elsewhere is rendered with a warm cream and pink tone. The shape of the face and high cheekbones recall Cyrenaican portraits.


  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 160-180
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Height: 36 centimetres
    • Width: 18 centimetres
    • Thickness: 1 centimetres
  • Curator's comments

    W. M. F. Petrie, 'Hawara, Biahmu and Arsinoe' (1889), 45, frontispiece no. 2;
    W. M. F. Petrie, 'The Hawara Portfolio: Paintings of the Roman Age' (1913), pl. 25;
    A. F. Shore, 'Portrait Painting from Roman Egypt' 2 ed. (1972) pl. 13;
    K. Parlasca, 'Ritratti di Mummie'. In A. Adriani (ed.), 'Repertorio d'arte dell'Egitto greco-romano'. 2 ser. II (1977), 36, no. 276 (bibl.), pl. 67;
    E. Doxiadis, 'The Mysterious Fayum Portraits. Faces from Ancient Egypt' (1995), 199, no. 43;
    B. Borg, ‘Mumienporträts. Chronologie und kulterelle Kontext (1996), 164, pl. 30;
    Doxiadis 1998, 140 no. 17 with pl. p. 57;
    Parlasca and Seeman 1999, 143 no. 45;
    S. Walker and M. Bierbrier, 'Fayum. Misteriosi volti dall'Egitto', London 1997, p. 94 [67].
    S. Walker, 'Ancient Faces', New York 2000, pp. 62-63 [24].


  • Bibliography

    • Walker, S 2000 24 bibliographic details
    • Walker & Bierbrier 1997 51 bibliographic details
    • Parlasca & Seeman 1999 p.143, no.45 bibliographic details
  • Exhibition history


    1997 15 Oct-1998 30 Apr, Italy, Rome, Fondazione Memmo, Ancient Faces
    2011 30 May-24 Jul. Spain,Madrid, Museo Arqueologico Nacional. 'Retratos de le Fayum'. Bussac, Claude.
    2016, 5 year loan PROMISED?

  • Condition

    fair - right eye damaged

  • Conservation

    See treatments 

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Acquisition notes

    Excavated 1888.

  • Department

    Ancient Egypt & Sudan

  • BM/Big number


  • Registration number


  • Additional IDs

    • National Gallery 1267


If you’ve noticed a mistake or have any further information about this object, please email: collectiondatabase@britishmuseum.org 

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Object reference number: YCA66279

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