Portrait of a man in encaustic on limewood: the panel is cut down at the sides as well as at the top. A crack extends from top to bottom through the centre. The lower part was left unpainted.
The surface of this expressive portrait was worked with a spatula, and the background is more thickly rendered with brush-strokes than is usual. The wax was remelted by Petrie, and a thin coat of paraffin wax was applied to conserve the surface. The mummy was wrapped in coarse linen, which has left diagonal impressions framing the portrait, so only the face and upper neck were visible.
The hair, black and cropped close to the head, is very similar to Roman court portraiture of the Trajanic period, as is the shape and contouring of the face, which confronts the viewer directly in the Roman manner. Short black brushstrokes on the chin may indicate stubble. The outline of the face is drawn in reddish brown, also used to part the lips. The face is painted in ochre and burnt sienna tones, with highlights in pink and cream. The brown eyes are deeply recessed and shaded.
- Excavated/Findspot: Hawara, Excavated in 1888 (Petrie JJ), found with a badly rotted portrait of a girl (Petrie jj).
- (Africa,Egypt,Middle Egypt,Faiyum,Hawara)
- Height: 42.1 centimetres
- Width: 23 centimetres
- Thickness: 0.24 centimetres
The original depiction of the subject without clothing is concealed. The Romanised appearance could indicate high social status, but the overall impression (somewhat lessened by inconfident painting of his left ear) is of maturity and physical strength, the latter expressed in the rugged physique and sunburned countenance.
W. M. F. Petrie, 'Hawara, Biahmu and Arsinoe' (1889), 42, 43, pl. 10;
W. M. F. Petrie, 'The Hawara Portfolio: Paintings of the Roman Age' (1913), pl. 23;
A. F. Shore, 'Portrait Painting from Roman Egypt' 2 ed. (1972) , pl. 5;
K. Parlasca, 'Ritratti di Mummie'. In A. Adriani (ed.), 'Repertorio d'arte dell'Egitto greco-romano'. 2 ser. I (1969), 67-8, no. 148 (bibl.), pl. 35, 3;
E. Doxiadis, 'The Mysterious Fayum Portraits. Faces from Ancient Egypt' (1995), 105, no. 71;
B. Borg, ‘Mumienporträts. Chronologie und kulterelle Kontext (1996), 12, 74, 107, 159, pl. 58.1;
E. Doxiadis 1998, 134 no. 2 with pl. p. 10;
M. F. Aubert and R. Cortopassi 'Portraits de l'Égypte Romaine' (1998), 142-3 no. 87
Parlasca and Seeman 1999, 127-8 no. 30.
'Portraits: De l’Egypte Romaine', Paris 1998, pp.142-143 .
S. Walker, 'Ancient Faces', New York 2000, pp. 49-50 .
2009 24 Sept-2010 17 Jan, Rome, Scuderie del Quirinale, Pituura Romana
2010 Aug-2013 Aug, Ipswich Museum, J Lyall
19 July 1996
Reason for analysis
Analysis of a surface coating on an encaustic painting, EA74708
During cleaning, a colourless elastic material was found in the crevices of an encaustic paintingfrom the Roman Period, (EA74708) approximately 100 AD.A sample was removed and analysed using Fourier transform infra-red spectroscopy (FTIR)using the diamond compression cell. The spectrum produced was a good match for polyvinylacetate, see Figure 1. The polyvinyl acetate is likely to be the result of a previous conservationtreatment.
Analysis reference number
Ancient Egypt & Sudan
- National Gallery 1265
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Object reference number: YCA66278
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