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Work Fragment of a funerary shroud, called "Portrait of Ammonios"

Department of Egyptian Antiquities: Roman Egypt (30 BC - AD 392)

Portrait dit d'Ammonios

© 1998 Musée du Louvre / Georges Poncet

Egyptian Antiquities
Roman Egypt (30 BC - AD 392)

Author(s):
Cortopassi Roberta

The portrait on this shroud fragment is painted on a light-colored background. An ankh sign and a crouching god are placed on either side of the head. The young man's highly individual features make this portrait a striking one. His face is very long, with a prominent chin. He holds a wine goblet in his right hand; in his left, the rose-petal crown which signified that the deceased had been judged free from sin, and would be granted access to the afterlife. There are two rings on the left hand.

A portrait -

The dark complexion of the long oval face is painted in warm tones. The frizzy black hair is very short, forming right angles on the forehead. The young man has large, sticking-out ears; his hook nose and fleshy lips are accentuated by white highlights. He wears a white tunic with purple clavii and long sleeves. There are two small purple lines at the right corner of the tunic's neck, and a white scallop motif shows at the left corner.
The man's right hand holds (in a rather unnatural way) a goblet in which red wine is visible. This kantharos-shaped cup is a fine piece of metalwork: it is made of gold with a beaded rim, and its body and handles are adorned with dark-colored round or rectangualar stones.
The man's left hand, which holds a garland of rose petals and green leaves, is adorned with two large gold rings: one on the little finger, the other on the first phalanx of the index finger.
A yellow ankh sign - symbol of life - is painted to the left of the neck; to the right, a little deity is portrayed in profile.

- on a mummy's shroud

This fragment comes from a funerary shroud (intended to envelop the mummy). It must have been decorated with vignettes (illustrating the stages of the journey to the afterlife) on either side of a full-length representation of the deceased in a naos coffin. The bust stands out against a light background with a dark outline which follows the line of the shoulders; this is reminiscent of the "shouldered" shape characteristic of mummy portraits on wood from Antinoe. The small god to the right of this portrait is difficult to identify: various authors have identified it as Ptah, as a syncretic image of Ptah-Sokar-Osiris-Apis, or simply as Osiris. In any case, a deity (generally identified with Osiris) portrayed in profile, crouching on a base and holding a scepter, features on cartonnage masks from the Ptolemaic Period.
The rather unnatural position of the hand holding the cup is the result of modern restoration work.

The details of the outfit

The two little purple lines next to the clavus are worthy of interest, as they illustrate the precision with which this portrait was painted. On many of the tunics unearthed from Egyptian cemeteries, the corners of the neckline (fragile areas which tear easily) are reinforced with buttonhole stitching in red, blue, or purple wool.
The white scallop motif which shows at the right corner of the neck has been compared to a flower (probably a lily) or a fringed undergarment. However, none of the Roman-Period items of clothing discovered to date have fringes at the neck - only at the hem or down the sides. The character in this portrait was christened "Ammonios" when it entered the Louvre; perhaps this name was inscribed on a lost part of the shroud.

Bibliography

- AUBERT M.-F., CORTOPASSI R., Portraits de l'Egypte romaine, Louvre/Editions de la Réunion des musées nationaux, Paris, 1998.

- DOXIADIS E., Portraits du Fayoum. Visages de l’Egypte ancienne, Paris, 1995, n° 89 p. 117 et 214.

- DUNAND F., LICHTENBERG R., Les momies, un voyage dans l’éternité, Découvertes Gallimard, n° 118, Paris, 1991, p. 66.

- ZANNI A., La tunica dell’Egitto cristiano. Restauro e iconografia dei tessuti copti del Museo Poldi Pezzoli, catalogue de l’exposition, Milan, Museo Poldi Pezzoli, 28 mai-5 octobre, 1997, p. 54, fig. 40.

- Un siècle de fouilles françaises en Egypte 1880-1980, catalogue de l’exposition, Paris, musée d’Art et d’Essai-Palais de Tokyo, 21 mai-15 octobre 1981, n° 340.

Catalogue de l’exposition Aurea Roma. Dalla città pagana alla città cristiana, Rome, Palazzo delle Esposizioni, 22 décembre 2000-20 avril 2001, n° 363 ;

Technical description

  • Portrait dit d'Ammonios

    IIIe siècle après J.-C.

  • toile de lin peinte à l'encaustique

    H. : 51 cm. ; L. : 30 cm.

  • E 12581 (P 215)

  • Egyptian Antiquities

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