Fayoum portrait of a boy, he wears a lilac-coloured chiton and round the top of the chiton is a necklace

Artefact Details

Gallery number: 14 – Upper Floor

Period: Roman Period (c. 30 BC – AD 306)

Size: Height: 30 cm, Width: 15.5 cm

Place of discovery: Hawara – Fayum

Material: Wood (unspecified), encaustic

This portrait is in a three-quarter pose with the right shoulder toward the front. The child has thinning brown hair, especially on the sides of the head. The face is full, nose and neck fleshy and the ears protrude forward. The brows are pushed downward and scrunched slightly together and the eyes stare straight ahead. The child’s skin is a yellowy-beige colour. This child wears a purple tunic with a white mantle over the left shoulder, and thick black sleeves, bordered by gold lines. Across the chest is a chain of circular ornaments in white (silver?) and gold that are shaped much like fruit. The top of this panel has been roughly shaped into a round edge with cut corners, the black outline followed by the cutter is still visible. Some paint is missing from the face and the left-hand side of the panel, where there are cracks. Spots of brown residue remain the surface.

Commonly known as mummy portraits, these paintings were found throughout Egypt and combine Greek and Egyptian representations of the human form. They are popularly known as Fayoum mummy portraits after the first discovery and largest collections recovered from the Fayoum region of Egypt. Some of these portraits represent only the head of the deceased, while others depict the upper part of the body. They illustrate the facial features, clothing and hairstyle of the deceased, were placed over the face of the mummy and secured with parts of the outermost wrapping.

These portraits were painted on boards or panels and in some cases on linen using the encaustic painting technique. A mixture of pigments with hot or cold beeswax and other ingredients such as egg, resin, and linseed oil, or animal glue tempera made from an aqueous medium such as glue, egg, wax or beeswax.