Tondo of the Two Brothers (Antinoopolis Tondo)

Artefact Details

Gallery number: 14 – Upper Floor

Period: Roman Period, reign of Hadrian, (c. AD 117–138)

Size: H. 24 cm, W. 38.5 cm

Place of discovery: Middle Egypt, el-Sheikh Abada, (Antinoe)

Material: Wood (unspecified), encaustic, pigment (unspecified)

This circular painting is believed to represent a provincial version of the contemporary style of mummy portraits. This panel is made of two vertically divided halves and shows what are believed to be brothers standing side by side facing forward. The right-hand half of the painting has suffered much damage.

The man on the viewer’s right appears to be the elder of the two and wears white drapery with thin hair on his upper lip and chin, brown skin and comparatively prominent facial features. Above his shoulder is the small figure or gold statuette of Hermes, with winged sandals and carrying his staff entwined with snakes.

The man on the viewer’s left wears a white tunic with a purple border. The shoulder of his garment is decorated with a swastika symbol, representing fertility and his purple cloak is fastened together with a green and gold brooch. His skin is lighter than the other man and he has only the slightest trace of facial hair. Above his shoulder is the small figure or gold statuette of a figure holding a staff and wearing an Egyptian crown. The date 15 Pachon, is painted in black above his shoulder.

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.