Portrait of a Woman
Unknown artist, Egyptian, From the Fayum Oasis
Portrait of a Woman, ca. 70 CE
Encaustic on wood
37.5 x 21.9 cm (14 3/4 x 8 5/8 inches)
Gift of Mrs. Jesse H. Metcalf 17.060
Mummies from the Roman period in Egypt were often embellished with a portrait of the deceased. Some of these were painted directly onto the linen shrouds, but more commonly, as here, they were painted on hardwood boards. These images, made during life and displayed until the subject’s death, were inserted into the wrappings covering a mummy’s face. This practice preserved the ancient Egyptian tradition of placing a likeness of the deceased in the tomb and was especially common in the Fayum. Details such as jewelry and hairstyle often assist in dating these portraits. The hairstyle, seen in securely dated portraits on Roman coins and sculpture, indicates that this portrait of a woman was painted sometime between the years 70 and 90.