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Mummy Portrait of a Young Man
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Gift of Lenore Barozzi

Unknown
Romano-Egyptian, about A.D. 150 - 250
Tempera on linen
22 13/16 x 10 7/16 in.
75.AP.87

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This Romano-Egyptian mummy portrait painted on linen depicts a young man. The portrait would have been placed over the face of the corpse and wrapped into the mummy, just like the more common portraits on wooden panels. The portrait is painted in the same frontal, flat, unrealistic style found on many of the panels. Yet even so, the artist has conveyed a sense of this particular youth with his early growth of beard and moustache. Such unrealistic yet expressive portraits were once thought to date only late in the 300s A.D., but now scholars think that paintings of this kind were characteristic of a region of Egypt, where they were made for many centuries. The choice of linen rather than a wooden panel for the portrait may also be a regional feature.

The falcon on the young man's shoulder symbolizes the Egyptian god Horus, who appears frequently in Egyptian funerary art. Unlike portraits on wooden panels, which may have been painted while the subject was alive and displayed in the home, portraits on linen like this were painted posthumously.