EGYPT, possibly Philadelphia or er-Rubayat
wood, gesso, tempera
33.3 x 13.0 x 0.8 cm
Felton Bequest, 1940 (1501-5)
Amongst the various that occurred in burial practices during the period of Roman rule, those affecting the treatment of the body are distinctive. A marked decline in the quality of the preservation of the body was accompanied by the emphasis upon the outward appearance. Anthropoid coffins continued to be used; head coverings in cartonnage were common, but others with the face modeled in plaster and attached to cartonnage upper-body coverings occur.
Mummies with portrait panels have been found in the same graves as those cartonnage head coverings and coffins, indicating that they were but one of a variety of types available for selection. Whilst their realism results from the adoption of classical traditions of representation, their use firmly rooted within Egyptian burial practice with its emphasis upon the preservation of the body.
This painting represents a young man with the curly hair, short mustache and neatly-trimmed beard in vogue in the second half of the second century, following imperial Roman fashion. The oval-shaped staring eyes and the stylized rendering of the eyelashes evidence Egyptian influence; shading and highlights, except that under the lower lip, are effectively executed. Whether he was of Greek ancestry and a local administrator, as is regularly proposed for those who selected this burial type, or an Egyptian which preferred the new style and strove fr social acceptance, cannot be determined.