Mummy Portrait Of A Woman With Earrings
© President and Fellows of Harvard College
Identification and Creation
Object Number
Mummy Portrait of a Woman with Earrings
Work Type
c. 130-140 CE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Africa, Antinoopolis (Egypt)
Roman Imperial period, Middle
Level 3, Room 3740, Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Art
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Physical Descriptions
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.)
Denman Waldo Ross, Cambridge, MA, (by 1923), gift; to Fogg Art Museum, 1923.
Aquisition and Rights
Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Dr. Denman W. Ross
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art
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.
Publication History

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.

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 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)

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. (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

Subjects and Contexts

Collection Highlights

Artstor Digital Library

Google Art Project

Related Works
Verification Level

3 - Good. Object is well described and information is vetted