Panel with Painted Image of Serapis

Object Details

Title:

Panel with Painted Image of Serapis

Artist/Maker(s):

Unknown

Culture:

Romano-Egyptian

Date:

100

Medium:

Tempera on wood

Dimensions:

39.1 x 19.1 x 1.6 cm (15 3/8 x 7 1/2 x 5/8 in.)

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Depicted as a mature bearded man, the god Serapis is similar in appearance to Graeco-Roman gods like Zeus or Jupiter, with whom he shares the role of king of the gods. The stylized modius or grain measure on his head emphasizes his role as a fertility deity. The Greek god Hades also wore this symbol, linking Serapis with the role of god of the Underworld.

Serapis was a creation of the Ptolemies, the Greek rulers of Egypt from 323 to 30 B.C. They needed a deity to help unify the mixed population of native Egyptians and Greek colonists. Serapis blended aspects of major Greek and Egyptian gods, making him acceptable to everyone. For Egyptians, he was the god Osiris under another name. Most importantly for the Greeks, the new god had human form. The Greeks as well as the Romans found the Egyptian worship of deities in animal form disturbing. When Octavian, the future Roman emperor Augustus, visited Egypt, he curtly refused to pay his respects to the bull-god Apis, from whom Serapis also derived, saying that he was "accustomed to worship gods, not cattle."

Provenance
- 1974

Nicolas Koutoulakis (Geneva, Switzerland), sold to the J. Paul Getty Museum, 1974.

Exhibitions
Fayum Portraits: Painted Portraits from Roman Egypt (March 24, 1981 - 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
Aurea Roma: Dalla citta pagana alla citta cristiana (December 21, 2000 to April 20, 2001)
  • Palazzo delle Esposizioni, Comune di Roma, (Rome), December 21, 2000 to April 20, 2001
Bibliography

Frel, Jirí. Recent Acquisitions. Ancient Art: The J. Paul Getty Museum. (Pullman, Washington: 1974). no. 24.

Thompson, David L. The Artists of the Mummy Portraits. Malibu: 1976. p. 16, fig. 51.

Parlasca, Klaus. Ritratti di Mummie. Repertorio d'arte dell'Egitto greco-romano (A. Adriani, ed.). 2 ser. Vol II. Rome: 1977. p. 69, no. 405; pl. 100.1-3.

Berger, J.-E. L'oeil et l'eternite. Portraits romains d'Egypte. Paudex, Switzerland: 1977. pp. 117, ill., 215.

Weitzmann, Kurt. The icon : holy images, sixth to fourteenth century (New York : G. Braziller, 1978), p. 9, pl. 5.

Thompson, David L. "A Painted Triptych from Roman Egypt," The J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 6/7 (1978-1979), pp. 185-192. figs. 1, 1a.

Thompson, David L. Mummy Portraits in the J. Paul Getty Museum. Malibu: 1982. pp. 46-51, no. 8, ill.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Collections. 1st ed. (Malibu: J. Paul Getty Museum, 1986), p. 56.

Bianchi, Robert S. "The Mummy as Medium," Archaeology. (November/December, 1995), pp. 60-66. p. 62.

Fenton, James. "The Mummy's Secret," The New York Review of Books. (July 17, 1997), pp. 57-62. p. 61.

Walker, Susan, Morris Bierbrier, et al. Fayum. Misteriosi Volti dall'Egitto, exh. cat. (Rome: Fondazione Memmo, October 22, 1997-February 28, 1998) pp. 146-47, no. 107.

Rutschowscaya, Marie-Helene. Le Christ et l'abbe Mena. Paris: Musee du Louvre, 1998. p. 35; fig. 30.

Mathews, Thomas F. The Clash of Gods: A Reinterpretation of Early Christian Art (repr., Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1999) pp. 184-86.

Walker, Susan, ed. Ancient Faces. Mummy Portraits from Roman Egypt. Metropolitan Museum of Art, exh. cat., February 15-May 7, 2000. (New York: Routledge, 2000), p. 21.

Aurea Roma. Dalla citta pagana alla citta cristiana. Exh. cat., E. La Rocca, ed. Rome, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, December 22, 2000-April 20, 2001. pp. 653-654, no. 368.

The J. Paul Getty Museum Handbook of the Antiquities Collection (Los Angeles: J. Paul Getty Museum, 2002) pp. 224-25.

Sorries, Reiner. Das Malibu-Triptychon: ein Totengedenkbild aus dem romischen Agypten und verwandte Werke der spatantiken Tafelmalerei (Dettelbach: Roll, 2003)

Rondot, Vincent. Derniers Visages des Dieux d'Égypte (Paris: Éditions du Louvre, 2013), pp. 203-7, ill.

Quack, Joachim Friedrich. "Serapis als neuer Gefaehrte der Isis: Von der Geburt eines Gottes aus dem Geist eines Stiers." In Imperium der Goetter: Isis, Mithras, Christus..., exh. cat. (Karlsruhe: Badisches Landesmuseum, 2013) p. 164