The Freud Museum

Fayum mummy portrait

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4947, Fayum mummy portrait , Roman Period; 250 AD - 300 AD

Culture: Egyptian
Material: Wood & wax encaustic
Dimensions: 35.6 x 19.1 cm

Fayum mummy portrait of man with curly hair and beard.  

This portrait acted as a ‘death mask’ to be bound to it subject after he was mummified. Wealthy Egyptians were embalmed and buried with many possessions to use in the afterlife.

The purpose of the masks was to preserve the deceased’s image after death. Often the portraits would be painted during a person’s lifetime and displayed in the home for use after death. Though this sounds morbid to us, it often meant that subjects were immortalised at their most youthful and attractive. The vivid colours are made from hot beeswax mixed with coloured pigments painted onto a wooden board.

The man’s identity will remain a mystery to us. Sigmund Freud bought this painting from the Austrian art dealer Theodor Graf. In the late 19th century Egyptian artefacts became fashionable collectables in Europe, making Victorian explorers and ‘tomb raiders’ race to uncover new artworks and treasures.

See this object on our Collections site here 

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