Roman, from Egypt, 3rd-4th century AD (ARCHIVED)

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Roman, from Egypt, 3rd-4th century AD (ARCHIVED)

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Portrait of a Young Woman, 3rd-4th century AD

Tempera on panel, 35 x 21.5 cm

Most portraits of this type were discovered before the end of the nineteenth century in the cemeteries of the Greco-Roman communities in the Fayoum oasis; hence they are known as Fayoum portraits. It is now thought that they were painted for the living and that only after the death of the subject were the panels shaped to fit over the part of the mummy where the face would be. While their final use, therefore, conformed to the ancient Egyptian practice of representing the deceased as alive, as works of art they are in the tradition of the finest Greek painting and Roman portraiture. 

The woman represented here wears a chiton with a coat draped over it. The folds of these rose-coloured garments are painted with bold brush-strokes in darker shades. Her black hair is parted in the middle and the ends are gathered in a knot appearing at the right side of the head; delicately drawn curls frame her beautiful face. The gold and pearl ear pendants and the twisted gold necklace, with a crescent-shaped pendant, indicate her status as a member of a wealthy family.

This outstanding and rare example of early portraiture was found in Er-Rubayat before 1900 and entered the famous collection of Theodor Graf, Vienna.

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