Wordless Wednesday: Roman-Egyptian Mummy Portrait, 2nd Century AD


  1. Wordless Wednesday is a cool idea! However, I'm now extremely curious about this piece. What do we know about it? Was it actually wrapped around a mummy? So curious....

  2. This particular portrait is called a Faiyum mummy portrait. Most of them come from the Faiyum Oasis in Middle Egypt. I'm not very familiar with this portrait. I picked it because it's different from the other ones I've seen before--most of the others are paintings that go down as far as the shoulders, or the waist at most. This one not only shows the dead man's whole body, it also shows him attended by the gods Osiris and Anubis. It intrigued me so much that I decided to share it. It's in the Pushkin Museum in Moscow.

    This portrait, like all the others, was placed over the face of the mummy and held there securely by the wrappings. It was the Roman Egyptian version of King Tut's golden mask. Here's a picture of a young man's mask still attached to his mummy: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mummy_with_Fayum_Portrait_of_a_Young_Man.jpg

    I don't know if any of the portrait panels are still attached to the mummies--most of them were found prior to X-ray and CAT scan technology, and the standard procedure then was to unwrap the mummy to learn about the inside.

    I've always been mesmerized by these portraits. Some of them aren't very skilled, but many of them are. They're so incredibly real. You can feel these people looking into your soul. They're startlingly modern. A few of them could have been made by Impressionists like Monet. Here's a page full of other mummy portraits for you to look at: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Category:Fayum_mummy_portraits

  3. I should have said that I don't think most of the other portraits are still attached to their mummies. The link I shared in my first comment does show a mummy with its portrait panel.

    I used to care less about the Greco-Roman Period, but lately I've been drawn to it. These portraits mesmerize me.