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Work Mummy in painted shroud

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

Mummy in painted shroud

© 2003 Musée du Louvre / Georges Poncet

Egyptian Antiquities
Roman Egypt (30 BC - AD 392)

Author(s):
Marie-France Aubert

The painted shroud is wrapped tightly around the mummy and the wood plank on which it rests. The portrait represents a young man inside a naos coffin. A painted mesh pattern covers the body from the waist to the calves. X-ray examinations reveal that the boy probably died at the age of 16 or 17. This is a rare example from Antinoe of a painted shroud still wrapped around a mummy.

Portrait of an adolescent

The young man is depicted standing and facing forward. The face, unfortunately incomplete, is oval-shaped, with a pointed chin and very large eyes. His hair is arranged as a skullcap with two locks forming small wings on the side. This associates the deceased with Hermes, the Greek god who guided souls to the afterlife. The head stands out from a light gray rectangular background. The figure is dressed in two overlapping white tunics and a white cloak. The two necklines are clearly represented. The tunic underneath is decorated with a blue-gray clavii, the second one with a purple clavii that extends to the hem. The white cloak covers the left shoulder and crosses the chest. The folds are indicated by long white and light ocher brushstrokes. The figure holds a wreath of roses, an attribute of one who has been deemed worthy by Osiris, in his left hand. His right hand is closed; the thumb and index finger are touching, in a gesture of prayer that originated in Greece.

An architectural decor made of stucco

Above the naos enclosing the deceased is a frieze of a uraeus and a stucco solar disk or a winged scarab, now missing. A second uraeus frieze and a winged solar disk are painted above the mesh pattern. Gilded stucco dots, some of which are still on the piece, complete the decor. White motifs on a red mesh background form a pattern of diamonds framing rosettes of white dots.
Along the sides are painted vignettes framed in red, representing the stages in the voyage from death to afterlife. These are still more or less visible; some are painted in an Egyptian style, while others are Hellenistic in design. The shroud is very wide; hence, some of the vignettes are folded back and hidden under the mummy.

A mummy in its shroud

The pictorial technique used on the face is excellent: volumes, darks, and lights are rendered with brushstrokes of pink, brown, and white. The bust is the most carefully rendered section and was painted with encaustic; a distemper binder was used for the rest of the piece.
This mummy illustrates how the painted shrouds from Antinopolis were wrapped. Most of the time, these shrouds have been removed from mummies and are now exhibited flat, like paintings.

Bibliography

M.-F. Aubert, R. Cortopassi, catalogue de l'exposition Portraits de l'Egypte romaine, Paris, musée du Louvre, 5 octobre 1998-4 janvier 1999, Paris, 1998, n 84

Technical description

  • Mummy in painted shroud

    AD late 3rd century

    Antinoe, A. Gayet excavation, 1906-07

  • Linen painted with encaustic and distemper, gilded stucco

    H. 1.6 m; W. 0.76 m

  • AF 6492

  • Egyptian Antiquities

    Denon wing
    Lower ground floor
    Roman Egypt (room closed for renovation)
    Room A

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