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Title:Mummy Portrait of a Woman
Date Made:ca. 150-200 CE Roman Period
Materials:tempera on wood
Place Made:Egypt
Measurements:overall (irregularly shaped): 13 x 8 in.; 33.02 x 20.32 cm
Narrative Inscription:  unmarked
Accession Number:  SC 1932.9.1
Credit Line:Purchased with the Drayton Hillyer Fund
Museum Collection:  Smith College Museum of Art

Currently on view

religion; woman; portrait; death/mourning

Label Text:
From Egypt’s Roman Period comes a remarkable group of portraits painted on wooden panels. The portraits, done in a naturalistic style reflecting influence from the Hellenistic world, were affixed to mummy wrappings or to coffins that might include traditional motifs from Egyptian funerary iconography, rendered in the local manner.

In recent years, scholars have made strides in dating mummy portraits that no longer have their original context to provide clues. Hairstyles, jewelry, and clothing, once thought to lag behind styles in Rome, are now known to have matched current fashions in the Empire’s capital.
In this case, the type of pearl earrings and the hairstyle point to a date in the second half of the second century. Specific details of painting style, such as the spiky lashes and brows, the long white highlight on the nose, the spreading lines at the edge of the mouth, and the lively asymmetrical neckline on the tunic have parallels on portraits that are likewise dated to this time.

Mummy portraits, introduced in the mid-first century CE, were once thought to continue as late as the fourth century, but now an end point in the mid-third century is generally accepted.
Diana Wolfe Larkin, June 2014

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