Monday, October 12, 2009

Portrait of a Woman

Portrait of a Woman
Roman from the province of Egypt
Tempera on panel, about A.D. 200
Purchased with funds from the Libbey Endowment, Gift of Edward Drummond Libbey, 1971.130
Toledo Museum of Art

Yes, once again I disappeared from the blogosphere. No excuses, and I do hope that I am back regularly now. I had some family visit recently and of course we went to my museum. A favorite of the collection was this portrait of a woman. What is so amazing to discover when looking a little further is that this portrait was made, around 200 A.D.! Funeral portraits were placed upon the head of mummies. They represented the human who once was. "When a person died, the portrait panel was placed over the face of the mummy with parts of the outermost wrapping holding it in place. This implies Egyptian beliefs about the afterlife." (

"The earliest so-called mummy portraits were painted about A.D. 50, but the practice ended in 392 when the Christian emperor Theodosius outlawed mummification." (Toledo Museum of Art)

Often referred to as Fayum portraits (as they are commonly found in the Faiyum Basin), they were painted on wood panel or directly on the linen mummy case. The paint was either egg tempera or encaustic.