Mummy Portrait of a Woman with Earrings

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Mummy Portrait of a Woman with Earrings, c. 130-140 CE
2nd century CE
Roman Imperial period, Middle
Creation Place: Antinoopolis (Egypt)
Encaustic on linden wood
35.3 cm h x 22.5 cm w x 2 cm d (13 7/8 x 8 7/8 x 13/16 in.)
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Dr. Denman W. Ross
, 1923.60
Department of Ancient and Byzantine Art & Numismatics
Re-View Exhibition, Spring 2008, gallery label information:

These wooden panels were set into mummy wrappings, covering the face of the deceased. Their vibrant encaustic (wax-based) painting was well preserved by the dry Egyptian climate. Such mummy portraits, often called Fayum Portraits after the region where many were found, reflect the fusion of Egyptian funerary practices, Greek painting techniques, and Roman portrait traditions. Leaving an anchor for the soul on earth by placing a substitute representation of the deceased within the tomb was a long-standing practice in Egypt. The image did not necessarily bear a physical resemblance but showed the deceased as virtuous. The man's hair and beard are trimmed short, as on the marble head of a bearded man (1949.47.138) in the center of the gallery. The shape of the woman's portrait reveals that it comes from Antinoopolis, a city founded by the emperor Hadrian.
Denman Waldo Ross, Cambridge, MA, (by 1923), gift; to Fogg Art Museum, 1923.
George M. A. Hanfmann, Roman Art: A Modern Survey of the Art of Imperial Rome, New York Graphi Society (Greenwich CT, New York and London, 1964), pg. 306, pl. 46

David Thompson, Mummy Portraits in the J. Paul Getty Museum, J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu, CA, 1982), p. 5, fig. 6

Kristin A. Mortimer, Harvard University Art Museums: A Guide to the Collections, Harvard University Art Museums/Abbeville Press (Cambridge, MA; New York, NY, 1985), p. 116, no. 130, ill.

Marvin Perry, Western Civilization: Ideas, Politics & Society, Houghton Mifflin Company (Boston, MA, 1989), p. 135, ill.

Euphrosyne Doxiadis, The Mysterious Fayum Portraits: Faces from Middle Egypt, Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (New York, NY, 1995), pg 113, fig 85

James Cuno, Harvard's Art Museums: 100 Years of Collecting, Harvard University Art Museums/Harry N. Abrams, Inc. (Cambridge, MA, 1996), p. 116-117, ill.

Rui Nakamura, "The Technique and Use of Encaustic in Ancient Roman Paintings : An Examination of One Example in the Fogg Museum with Reference to Pliny's Natural History", (2003), p. 409 - 418 (figs. 1a, 1b)

Prof. Ioli Kalavrezou, Byzantine Women and Their World, exh. cat., Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2003), p. 240, no. 133, fig. 133.

Rui Nakamura, "The Technique and Expression of Encaustic in Ancient Portrait Paintings: An Examination of One Example in the Fogg Museum with Reference to Pliny's Natural History", Kashima Bijutsu Kenkyu, 20, 409-418, 2003, p. 418, ill.

Stephan Wolohojian, ed., Harvard Art Museum/Handbook, exh. cat., ed. Stephan Wolohojian (Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2008)

Exhibition History
Roman Gallery Installation (long-term), Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/16/1999 - 01/20/2008
Byzantine Women and Their World, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 10/25/2002 - 04/28/2003
Gods in Color: Painted Sculpture of Classical Antiquity, Harvard University Art Museums, Cambridge, 09/22/2007 - 01/20/2008
Roman Emperor Hadrian, British Museum, London, 07/24/2008 - 10/26/2008
Ancient to Modern, Harvard Art Museums, Cambridge, 01/31/2012 - 06/01/2013
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