- Museum number
Portrait of an elderly woman in tempera on wood, perhaps sycomore fig: this covered the face of an embalmed person wrapped as a mummy. The panel is broken at the upper right edge and in places down the right side. Traces of black paint appear on the lower right edge of the panel; where the paint has been removed to the centre left, a cream wash remains. The background is grey.
The subject wears a light terracotta tunic and a mantle, the latter draped over her proper left shoulder and around the neck. The clavi are painted in black on a brown ground; the left clavus has been misunderstood and extends over the mantle. Also misunderstood are the shoulder seams of the tunic, which appear as rows of dots on the mantle. In her hair the woman wears a band of terracotta wool, matching the mantle. The straight hair, painted in black and white on a brown ground, is parted centrally and brushed around the face and towards the back of the head in casual fashion.
The subject's face is bony, irregular in shape, sallow in complexion and marked by lines of ageing. The heavy brows are painted in black and brown. The huge brown eyes have individually indicated lashes. The long nose is highlighted in white. The thick lips are twisted, with the knotted brow giving the impression of an anxious scowl. Age lines also appear on the neck.
- Production date
Height: 31.20 centimetres
Thickness: 0.60 centimetres
Width: 18.50 centimetres
- Curator's comments
- The painting is remarkably similar to one of an elderly man now in Vienna (KM X300, formerly in the Graf collection). They appear to be the work of the same artist and may represent members of the same family, perhaps husband and wife. Without jewellery it is difficult to date this portrait, but from the hairstyle it could belong in the middle years of the second century AD.
R.P.Hinks, 'A Catalogue of the Greek, Etruscan and Roman Paintings and Mosaics in the British Museum' (1933), 58 no. 87 fig. 66;
K. Parlasca, 'Ritratti di Mummie'. In A. Adriani (ed.), 'Repertorio d'arte dell'Egitto greco-romano'. 2 ser. III (1980), 27 no. 517 (bibl.), pl. 126, I;
B. Borg, ‘Mumienporträts. Chronologie und kulterelle Kontext (1996), 108, pl. 49, 2;
K. Parlasca & H. Seeman, ‘Augenblicke, Mumienporträts un ägyptische Grabkunst aus römischer Zeit’ (1999), 180 no. 81
- On display (G70/dc29)
- Exhibition history
1997 22 Oct-1998 30 Apr, Italy, Rome, Fondaione Memmo, Ancient Faces
2010 10 Jun-26 Sept, London, Wellcome Collection, Skin
- Acquisition date
- Greek and Roman
- Registration number