The APPEAR Project

The APPEAR (Ancient Panel Paintings: Examination, Analysis, and Research) Project investigates ancient panel paintings to increase the understanding of their materials and manufacture. Launched by the J. Paul Getty Museum’s Department of Antiquities Conservation in 2013, this international collaboration addresses the multitude of questions that surround ancient panel paintings—primarily mummy portraits, as well as related artifacts including shrouds, shrines, and complete portrait mummies.

Ancient mummy portraits are unique examples of paintings that survive from Roman-era Egypt. Portraits of the deceased that were executed on wooden panels and incorporated into the wrappings of mummified human remains, they combine the technical methods and style of Greco-Roman culture with the ritual function of Egyptian funerary tradition over 2,500 years old. Roughly 1,000 mummy portraits are housed in collections around the world today. While they first attracted attention in the nineteenth century, only a handful have undergone full and rigorous technical investigation exploring how they were made. Much remains to be learned about these ancient art works and their influence on succeeding painting traditions.

APPEAR was designed with a highly collaborative approach to encourage scholarly examination and support the exchange of technical data and discoveries. Participating institutions from around the world provide resources and the expertise of conservators, art historians, artists, and material and imaging scientists. Each institution researches their collections and contributes results to a shared database, which promotes comparison between the artifacts and helps develop a broader understanding of the production, materials, and workshop and artistic practices that created ancient panel paintings. This approach makes the APPEAR Project a proven model for cultural heritage research in the twenty-first century.

Mummy Portrait of a Woman, 1st-century C.E. Encaustic on linden wood panel. Infrared imaging of portrait for technical study. 73.AP.91

Project Lead

Marie Svoboda, Conservator


Cover of the publication Mummy Portraits of Roman Egypt, featuring a painting in four quadrants showing various scientific analysis of a portrait

Mummy Portraits of Roman Egypt: Emerging Research from the APPEAR Project

The papers and posters from the first APPEAR (Ancient Panel Paintings: Examination, Analysis, and Research) conference held in 2018 are collected in this publication, which offers the most up-to-date information available about these fascinating remnants of the ancient world.

This catalogue is available for free online and in multiple formats for downloading, e-readers, and printing.

The paperback edition is available for purchase at the Getty store.

Project Database

The APPEAR database currently includes historic, technical, and analytical information about ancient panel paintings. Participating institutions have used examination techniques that include (but are not limited to):

  • Visible light imaging and examination (raking, specular, magnified)
  • X-radiography
  • Pigment, binding medium, resin, fiber and wood identification via non-destructive and destructive (requiring small samples) analytical techniques
  • Documentation of detailed visible observations of tool marks, panel shape and preparation, inscriptions, dealer marks, and the addition of decorative details (impasto, stucco, gilding, etc.)
  • Condition and restoration history
  • Collection history and references
  • Multispectral imaging techniques such as:
    • Ultraviolet-induced visible fluorescence (UVF)
    • Infrared radiation
    • Visible induced luminescence

An overview document that summarizes the statistical information available in the database will be made available soon.

Map of Romano-Egyptian ancient panel ​painting collections worldwide

Funerary panel paintings/mummy portraits dating from 1st - 3rd century CE have been collected by museums throughout the world. This map displays the locations of approximately 125 museums housing these ancient artifacts and links to their websites, when available. APPEAR project participants are marked with blue dots. Every attempt has been made to accurately publish current holdings; amendments and comments are welcome and should be sent to:

Map created using Tableau. Online links were acquired through the public domain. Visualization: Julie Unruh 2021.


Allard Pierson Museum, Amsterdam
Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin
Art Institute of Chicago
Ashmolean Museum of Art and Archaeology, Oxford
British Museum, London
Brooklyn Museum of Art
Cantor Arts Center, Stanford, CA
Cleveland Museum of Art
Detroit Institute of Arts
The Fitzwilliam, Cambridge, UK
Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, MA
The J. Paul Getty Museum/Getty Conservation Institute, Los Angeles
Johns Hopkins Archaeological Museum, Baltimore
Kelsey Museum of Archaeology, Ann Arbor, MI
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna
Los Angeles County Museum of Art
Louvre Abu Dhabi
Manchester Museum, UK
The Menil Collection, Houston
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York
Michael C. Carlos Museum, Atlanta
Musée du Louvre, Paris
Museo Egizio, Turin
Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
National Archaeological Museum, Athens, Greece
National Gallery London
National Museum in Warsaw
The National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, MO
Nicholson Museum, Sydney University Museums
Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena
Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, Copenhagen
The Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago
The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, London
Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, Berkeley
Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, San Jose
Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence
San Antonio Museum of Art
Santa Barbara Museum of Art
Saint Louis Art Museum
The Egypt Centre, Museum of Egyptian Antiquities, Swansea, UK
The State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts, Moscow
University of Georgia (Lamar Dodd School of Art), Athens
University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Philadelphia
The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore
Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, CT

In Focus: Faces of Roman Egypt

Google Arts & Culture Online Exhibition
(Left) Mummy Portrait of a Youth, A.D. 150–200, Romano-Egyptian. Encaustic on linden wood, 8 × 5 1/8 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum, 78.AP.262. (Center) Mummy Portrait of a Woman, A.D. 100, Romano-Egyptian. Encaustic on linden wood, gilt, linen, 18 7/8 × 14 3/16 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum, 81.AP.42. (Right) Panel with Painted Image of Isis, A.D. 100–200, Romano-Egyptian. Tempera on wood, 15 3/4 × 7 1/2 in. The J. Paul Getty Museum, 74.AP.22

Getty’s collection of remarkably lifelike mummy portraits from this period brings us face-to-face with the people who lived in Egypt under the Roman Empire. Discover more about these mummy portraits and the stories they tell, in this new Google Arts & Culture online exhibition: Faces of Roman Egypt.

Featured Video

This video capture shows reflectance transformation imaging (RTI) used to explore the surface of Mummy Portrait of a Woman. This computational imaging technique makes clearly visible the distinct marks left by the tools used to create this sophisticated encaustic mummy portrait. Watch in full-screen view to see the RTI results in detail.

Featured Blog Post

Face of a dark-haired woman with pearl earrings.
New Directions for Research on Ancient Romano-Egyptian Panel Paintings

Approximately 1,000 mummy portraits survive from antiquity. Originally buried with the mummified bodies of the deceased, these ancient paintings bring modern viewers face to face with people who lived in Roman Egypt 2,000 years ago. ... Read more

Banner caption: (left) Mummy Portrait of a Woman (81.AP.42) being analyzed using a macro-X-ray fluorescence (XRF) scanner. (center) Detail of same artwork under visible light. (right) Detail of XRF map of same artwork revealing the distribution and relative concentration of lead-based pigments used in painting the portrait (red areas indicate high levels, blue low). Analysis and imaging by the Getty Conservation Institute.