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Mummy portrait of a woman
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Egyptians continued to mummify their dead after the Roman conquest of 30 BC, but aspects of this long-standing practice begin to show the influence of Roman culture. Instead of the idealized faces of traditional Egyptian art, mummies from this period bear realistic portraits, characteristic of Roman art. The impact of Rome can also be seen in their dress.

Most surviving portraits have become separated from the mummies to which they were once attached, so we rarely know the identities of the subjects. However, the clothing, jewellery and hair styles depicted can suggest an approximate date for their death. Those worn by the woman in this portrait indicate that she died some time during the reign of the Roman emperor Nero (AD 54-68). The portrait is painted in encaustic, a mixture of pigment and beeswax with a hardening agent such as resin or egg.

Mummy portrait of a woman

From Hawara, Egypt, AD 55-70.
Ht. 41,6 cm.
Excavated by W.M. Flinders Petrie.
Gift of the National Gallery, London (1994).

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