Collection online


  • Object type

  • Museum number


  • Description

    Portrait of a woman in encaustic on limewood: a large crack splits the panel from top to bottom through the proper right eye, and a shorter crack runs through the left eye. The paint surface is damaged in several places. Traces of the mummy wrappings appear at the upper corners. The background was painted in bluish grey with long brush-strokes.
    The figure appears very large in relation to the background and is shown in three-quarter view. She wears a claret-coloured tunic with a very dark crimson clavus edged with gold, visible on the proper right side. A mantle of mauvish tone is draped around the shoulders.
    The woman wears gold ball earrings (painted with white highlights) typical of the later first century AD. She wears around her neck a gold chain with pendant crescent with ball-shaped terminals: this too is painted with creamy-white highlights. It is not out of the question that she originally had an ornamental chain across the hair, separating the bun on the crown from the locks in front - a feature of other Neronian portraits. Of this, nothing survives but a greyish ground. The front hair is arranged around the brow in two banks of snail-shaped curls, expanded to four above the ears. Locks fall behind the ears to either side of the neck; the necklace has been painted over the lock on the proper right side.
    The eyes (especially the proper left eye) are large and rounded, with arched eyebrows. The nose is rather shorter than the norm; the lips are full and painted rose pink. The creamy flesh is tinted pink on the cheeks and chin, and a creamy-white highlight runs down the nose and above and below the lips.


  • Culture/period

  • Date

    • 55-70 AD
  • Findspot

  • Materials

  • Technique

  • Dimensions

    • Length: 35.8 centimetres
    • Width: 20.2 centimetres
  • Curator's comments

    S. Walker and M. Bierbrier, Fayum. 'Misteriosi volti dall'Egitto', London 1997, p. 71 [41].
    'Portraits De l’Egypte Romaine', Paris 1998, pp.140-141 [85].
    W. M. F Petrie, 'Roman Portraits and Memphis' IV (1911) p. 7 [14];
    W. M. Flinders Petrie, 'The Hawara Portfolio: Paintings of the Roman Age' (1913), pl. 7;
    A. F. Shore, 'Portrait Painting from Roman Egypt' 2 ed. (1972) pl. 2;
    K. Parlasca, 'Ritratti di Mummie'. In A. Adriani (ed.), 'Repertorio d'arte dell'Egitto greco-romano'. 2 ser. I (1969), 29, no.13 (bibl.), pl. 4;
    E. Doxiadis, 'The Mysterious Fayum Portraits. Faces from Ancient Egypt' (1995), p. 200 [48];
    B. Borg, ‘Mumienporträts. Chronologie und kulterelle Kontext (1996), 31, 91, 106, 126, 169;
    E. Doxiadis 1998, 136 no. 6 with pl. p. 22;
    M. F. Aubert and R. Cortopassi 'Portraits de l'Égypte Romaine' (1998), 140-1 no. 86;
    Parlasca and Seeman 1999, 102 no. 2.
    S. Walker, 'Ancient Faces', New York 2000, pp. 39-40 [2].


  • Bibliography

    • Walker, S 2000 2 bibliographic details
    • Walker & Bierbrier 1997 2 bibliographic details
    • Paris 1998 no.85 bibliographic details
    • Parlasca & Seeman 1999 p.102, no. 2 bibliographic details
  • Location

    Not on display

  • Exhibition history

    Exhibited: 1997 22 Oct-1998 30 Apr, Italy, Rome, Fondaione Memmo, Ancient Faces 2008 25 Oct-2009 22 Mar, London, Royal Academy of Arts, Byzantium 330-1453 AD 2009 24 Sept-2010 17 Jan, Rome, Scuderie del Quirinale, Pituura Romana 2011 30 May-24 Jul. Spain,Madrid, Museo Arqueologico Nacional. 'Retratos de le Fayum'. Bussac, Claude. 2013, - 2014 21 Sep - 05 Jan, Bristol Museum + Art Gallery, Roman Empire: Power + People 2014, 25 Jan - 27 Apr, Norwich Castle, Roman Empire + People
    2014, 15 May - 31 Aug, Coventry, Herbert Museum, Roman Empire + People 2014 -2015, 20 Sep - 4 Jan, Manchester, Roman Empire + People 2015, 24 Jan - 10 May, Dundee, Roman Empire + People 2015, 30 May - 13 Sep, Tyne & Wear, Roman Empire + People
    2015-2016, Oct 29-Feb 7, London, BM, G35, Egypt: Faith after the Pharaohs.

  • Condition

    fair - vertical cracks through both eyes

  • Acquisition name

  • Acquisition date


  • Acquisition notes

    Excavated 1911 by Petrie at Hawara (Petrie 58). Formerly National Gallery 2914. Portraits NG 2912-2915 were presented to the National Gallery in 1912 by the British School of Archaeology in Egypt. See information from the NG on file [Nov 2005, NCS]. AES Archive 548.

  • Department

    Ancient Egypt & Sudan

  • BM/Big number


  • Registration number


  • Additional IDs

    • National Gallery 2914
Limewood panel bearing an encaustic portrait of a woman wearing gold ball-earrings and a necklace; claret-coloured tunic with a crimson clavus edged with gold on the right; vertical cracks through both eyes.

Limewood panel bearing an encaustic portrait of a woman wearing gold ball-earrings and a necklace; claret-coloured tunic with a crimson clavus edged with gold on the right; vertical cracks through both eyes.

Image description



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Object reference number: YCA60733

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