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Portrait of a Noblewoman

Egyptian, Classical, Ancient Near Eastern Art

Roman Period mummy portraits were painted on wooden panels that were slipped into the mummy wrappings over the face of the deceased. Often, as here, the artists used melted wax as a medium, building up thick layers of pigment and highlighting the facial features with touches of white. Although painted in the naturalistic tradition of the Greco-Roman world, these images are idealized representations of the deceased, and they were used in a traditional Egyptian funerary context. This woman's dress, hairstyle, and jewelry show the influence of fashions at the Roman imperial court and reflect a desire to be understood as Romanized. However, there is no way to know whether her heritage was Egyptian, Mediterranean, or mixed.
MEDIUM Encaustic on wood
  • Place Made: Egypt
  • DATES ca. 150 C.E.
    PERIOD Roman Period
    DIMENSIONS 17 5/16 x 11 5/16 x 1/8 in. (44 x 28.7 x 0.3 cm)  (show scale)
    MUSEUM LOCATION This item is not on view
    ACCESSION NUMBER 86.226.18
    CREDIT LINE Gift of the Ernest Erickson Foundation, Inc.
    RIGHTS STATEMENT No known copyright restrictions
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    CAPTION Portrait of a Noblewoman, ca. 150 C.E. Encaustic on wood, 17 5/16 x 11 5/16 x 1/8 in. (44 x 28.7 x 0.3 cm). Brooklyn Museum, Gift of the Ernest Erickson Foundation, Inc., 86.226.18
    IMAGE overall, 86.226.18_SL1.jpg. Brooklyn Museum photograph
    "CUR" at the beginning of an image file name means that the image was created by a curatorial staff member. These study images may be digital point-and-shoot photographs, when we don\'t yet have high-quality studio photography, or they may be scans of older negatives, slides, or photographic prints, providing historical documentation of the object.
    CATALOGUE DESCRIPTION Panel painting on this wooden board, so-called Fayum painting, of a young woman with close-fitting black hair, pink skin, black eyebrows, dark brown eyes, red lips, gold earrings dressed in a white garment which is only summarily indicated. Strap over her right shoulder; background light blue-grey. Encaustic technique. Condition: Wooden panel warped and split length-wise in several places; paint missing in numerous spots baring wood underneath. Some deposit of brownish foreign matter (like drips of mud) on hair and face primarily.
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