Fayum Mummy Portraits, dating from around 30 BC to the mid 3rd century AD.
The portrait heads were attached to Egyptian mummies of the Roman period, covering the faces of the deceased In the top pictures, you can see now they were bound to the mummy. Dating from the time of the Roman occupation of Egypt, they are closest to Graeco-Roman artistic traditions. Around 900 are known to survive and they are some of the only surviving evidence of Classical panel painting traditions. Due to their burial in hot, dry conditions with the bodies, many have survived in excellent condition.
The term Fayum comes from an area of graveyards (necropoli) where they were found in large numbers, buried in communal catacombs.
Painted on wooden board (and sometimes on cloth), either in encaustic (wax) or egg tempera.
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The jackal-god of mummification, he assisted in the rites by which a dead man was admitted to the underworld. Anubis was worshipped as the inventor of embalming and who embalmed the dead Osiris and thereby helping to preserve him that he might live again.
Anubis is portrayed as a man with the head of a jackal holding the divine sceptre carried by kings and gods; as simply a black jackal or as a dog accompanying Isis. His symbol was a black and white ox-hide splattered with blood and hanging from a pole. It’s meaning is unknown.
Mummy portraits or Fayum mummy portraits (also Faiyum mummy portraits) is the modern term given to a type of naturalistic painted portrait on wooden boards attached to Egyptian mummies from the Coptic period. They belong to the tradition of panel painting, one of the most highly regarded forms of art in the Classical world. In fact, the Fayum portraits are the only large body of art from that tradition to have survived.
Mummy portraits have been found across Egypt, but are most common in the Faiyum Basin, particularly from Hawara in the Fayum Basin (hence the common name) and the Hadrianic Roman city Antinoopolis. “Faiyum Portraits” is generally thought of as a stylistic, rather than a geographic, description. While painted cartonnage mummy cases date back to pharaonic times, the Faiyum mummy portraits were an innovation dating to the Coptic period at the time of the Roman occupation of Egypt.
They date to the Roman period, from the late 1st century BC or the early 1st century AD onwards. It is not clear when their production ended, but recent research suggests the middle of the 3rd century. They are among the largest groups among the very few survivors of the highly prestigious panel painting tradition of the classical world, which was continued into Byzantine and Western traditions in the post-classical world, including the local tradition of Coptic iconography in Egypt.
The portraits covered the faces of bodies that were mummified for burial. Extant examples indicate that they were mounted into the bands of cloth that were used to wrap the bodies. Almost all have now been detached from the mummies. They usually depict a single person, showing the head, or head and upper chest, viewed frontally. In terms of artistic tradition, the images clearly derive more from Graeco-Roman traditions than Egyptian ones.
Two groups of portraits can be distinguished by technique: one of encaustic (wax) paintings, the other in tempera. The former are usually of higher quality. About 900 mummy portraits are known at present. The majority were found in the necropoleis of Faiyum. Due to the hot dry Egyptian climate, the paintings are frequently very well preserved, often retaining their brilliant colours seemingly unfaded by time.
Personally I`ve seen some at the Museum and was stunned and hypnotized by the ancient 2000 year-old faces looking at me as if they were there with me.