The J. Paul Getty Museum

Mummy Portrait of a Bearded Man

Object Details


Mummy Portrait of a Bearded Man






Egypt (Place Created)


about A.D. 150–170


Encaustic on linden wood

Object Number:



37 × 21 cm (14 9/16 × 8 1/4 in.)

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Object Description

The man in this funerary portrait has tightly curled black hair, thick eyebrows, a beard and moustache. He is clad in a traditional white funerary tunic with red clavi (woven stripes). One extends vertically from the man’s proper right shoulder. A mantle (pallium) is draped over his proper left shoulder; at its lower edge is an “H” pattern similar to that on the Portrait of a Boy (see also 78.AP.262) and possibly indicating the presence of an embroidery motif.

The portrait presents a superb example of the pictorial possibilities intrinsic to the encaustic technique. No ground layer exists, and the encaustic was applied directly to the wood. Overall the surface treatment is very painterly, clearly exhibiting brush strokes and tool markings. The background (neutral grayish-white) and tunic (white) are painted with thick parallel lines radiating out from the portrait, which is heavily impastoed on the face and hair – some details such as the eyelashes are incised. The use of the cestrum, a tool similar to a palette knife, is evident in the textured pigment of the hair. Pigment analysis shows iron oxides (red, yellow, brown), red organic plant dye (madder) and lead white. The linden wood panel is extremely thin and curved, but in very good condition. The upper corners of the panel are roughly chopped at a slight diagonal leaving a straight edge between them. This type of cutting (as contrasted to the round tops associated with panels from Hawara) is linked to portraits from Er-Rubayat.

by 1973 - 1974

Robin Symes, Limited (London, England), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1974.

Fayum Portraits: Painted Portraits from Roman Egypt (March 24, 1981 to 1997)
  • The J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu), March 24, 1981 to December 1, 1997
Ancient Faces: Mummy Portraits from Roman Egypt (March 13, 1997 to April 30, 1998)
  • The British Museum (London), March 13 to July 20, 1997
  • Palazzo Ruspoli (Rome), October 22, 1997 to April 30, 1998
Ancient Faces: Mummy Portraits from Roman Egypt (February 9 to May 7, 2000)
  • The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York), February 9 to May 7, 2000

Apollo XCVIII, n.s. no. 142 (December 1973), p. 95, color ill.

Frel, Jiří. Recent Acquisitions. Ancient Art: The J. Paul Getty Museum (Pullman, Washington: 1974), no. 26.

Thompson, David L. "Four 'Fayum' Portraits in the Getty Museum." The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 2 (1975), pp. 85-92, p. 89, no. 4; fig. 5.

Thompson, David L. The Artists of the Mummy Portraits (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1976), no. 4, cover ill.

Parlasca, Klaus. Ritratti di Mummie. Repertorio d'arte dell'Egitto greco-romano. 2 ser. Vol II. (Roma : "L'Erma" di Bretschneider, 1977), p. 57, no. 357; pl. 86.2.

Berger, J.-E. L'oeil et l'eternite. Portraits romains d'Egypte. Paudex, Switzerland: 1977, pp. 170, ill., 215.

Fredericksen, Burton B., Jiří Frel, and Gillian Wilson. Guidebook: The J. Paul Getty Museum. 4th ed. Sandra Morgan, ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1978), p. 64-65, ill.

Thompson, David L. Mummy Portraits in the J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1982), pp. 42-43, no. 6, ill.

Parlasca, K., J.-E. Berger, and R. Pintaudi. El-Fayyum (Milan: Ricci, 1985), p. 106, ill. p. 107.

Doxiadis, Euphrosyne. The Mysterious Fayum Portraits: Faces from Ancient Egypt (London: Thames and Hudson, 1995), p. 96, fig. 38; comment p. 225.

Borg, Barbara. Mumienporträts: Chronologie und kultureller Kontext (Mainz: Ph. von Zabern, 1996), pp. 80, 88, 162 ff.

Walker, Susan, Morris Bierbrier, et al. Fayum. Misteriosi Volti dall'Egitto, exh. cat. (Rome: Fondazione Memmo, October 22, 1997-February 28, 1998), p. 115, no. 85.

Borg, Barbara. "Der zierlichste Anblick der Welt," Aegyptische Portraetmumien. Mainz: 1998, pp. 72-73; fig. 86.

Walker, Susan, ed. Ancient Faces: Mummy Portraits from Roman Egypt, exh. cat. (New York: Routledge, 2000), no. 37.

Corcoran, Lorelei H., and Marie Svoboda. Herakleides: A Portrait Mummy from Roman Egypt (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2010), p.43, fig 23.

Miller, Barry. "On the Loss of Nudity in the Men's Locker Room." Psychological Perspectives 59, no. 1 (2016), pp. 94, ill.