Our evocative portrait depicts an aristocratic young
man with curly hair, his head inclined toward our
right hand side with the glance of his enormous
eyes cast far into the distance. He appears to be
wearing a white tunic without additional accessories.
Recent scholarship suggests that such portraits may
have been displayed in the homes of the elite
members of Roman Egypt’s society in much that
same way that we display portraits and photographs
of our loved ones and friends today. Upon death,
these portraits were reverentially entrusted to the
funerary priests who ceremoniously attached them
over the head of the deceased’s wrapped mummy.
There is a good parallel for our portrait in the
collections of the British Museum [inventory number
EA 6713] which is still attached to its intact mummy.
That example is dated to the period between 200-
250 AD, to which era our example should likewise
Our portrait was painted on a very thin panel of
wood, which, when taken into consideration with its
age, understandably accounts for the splits which
run vertically up the picture plane. The portrait is
otherwise in stable condition.
For these so-called Faiyum portraits in general, see,
M-F Aubert and R. Cortopassi, Portraits de l’Egypte
romaine (Paris 1998), and pages 90-91, catalogue
number 45, for the parallel in London.