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Bust portrait of a woman in a white garment.

In this bust portrait, a middle-aged woman is rendered in a linear manner on a gray-green background. Her dark brown hair is pulled away from her face, and she has heavy eyebrows, round brown eyes, a long nose, and red lips. Modeling is rendered through mostly hatched lines, although there are distinct wrinkles on her forehead and neck. For costuming, she wears a white garment with a vertical red border stripe over her proper left shoulder, and has on gold hooped earrings with three pearls in each.

Gallery Text

Women in mummy portraits usually wear colorful clothing, and it may be that the white garment refers to the professional orientation of the deceased as a scribe. The band over this woman’s shoulder originates in the broad purple stripe (clavus) worn by Roman senators, but is more a sign of cultural allegiance to Rome than a mark of office here.

Identification and Creation

Object Number
Portrait of a woman
Work Type
Second half second century CE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Africa, Fayum (Egypt)
Roman Imperial period
Persistent Link


Level 3, Room 3600, University Research Gallery
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Physical Descriptions

Binder: Animal glue Pigments: Bassanite, anhydrite, alunite, red and yellow ochres, bone black, carbon black, madder lake, red lead Support: Native Egyptian sycomore fig (Ficus sycomorus)
32 × 19 × 0.5 cm (12 5/8 × 7 1/2 × 3/16 in.)


Recorded Ownership History
Theodor Graf Collection, Vienna. [Sotheby's, London, 27 July 1931, cat. no. 22], sold; to [Brummer Gallery, New York, 1931-1932], sold; to Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Jr, New York, (1932-1939), gift; to the Fogg Art Museum, 1939.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Gift of Mrs. John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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Publication History

  • Sotheby's London: Catalogue of Egyptian, Greek, Roman, South American, Arabian, and Indian Antiquities, auct. cat., Sotheby's (London, England, July 27, 1931), no. 22, 1.
  • Dr. Heinrich Drerup, Die Datierung der Mumienportrats, Schoningh (Paderborn, 1933), 44, and 62, pl 17a
  • "Pagan and Christian Egypt: Egyptian Art from the First to the Tenth Century A.D." (1941), Brooklyn Museum, p. 16, no. 5, ill.
  • Walters Art Gallery, Early Christian and Byzantine Art, exh. cat., The Trustees of the Walters Art Gallery (Baltimore, MD, 1947), no. 674, pl. 87.
  • George M. A. Hanfmann, Roman Art: A Modern Survey of the Art of Imperial Rome, New York Graphi Society (Greenwich CT, New York and London, 1964), pg 312, pl. 49
  • Klaus Parlasca, Mumienportrats und verwandte Denkmaler, Franz Steiner Verlag (Wiesbaden, Germany, 1966), pg 270
  • David Thompson, Mummy Portraits in the J. Paul Getty Museum, J. Paul Getty Museum (Malibu, CA, 1982), p. 21
  • Rosario Pintaudi, El-Fayyum, F.M. Ricci (Milan, Italy, 1985), p. 147.
  • Ioli Kalavrezou, Byzantine Women and Their World, exh. cat., Harvard University Art Museums (Cambridge, MA, 2003), p. 242/fig. 134
  • [Reproduction Only], Persephone, (Fall 2006)., p. 40.

Exhibition History

Subjects and Contexts

  • Collection Highlights
  • Google Art Project

Related Works

Verification Level

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