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Work Portrait of a man

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

Portrait of a man

© 2003 Musée du Louvre / Georges Poncet

Egyptian Antiquities
Roman Egypt (30 BC - AD 392)

Author(s):
Cortopassi Roberta

The man is represented in a three-quarters pose against a dark gray background. His face is dark and his clothing light. The oval face is elongated, which accentuates the hair that tapers to a point on the forehead, leaving the temples bare. The hair is cut very short, with a clear contour around the face. The man is dressed simply in a white tunic with a purple clavii.

A palette of dark colors

The portrait is characterized by a dark palette and cold tones; the background is an unusual dark gray. The bone structure, particularly the forehead and cheekbones, is accentuated by the juxtapositioning of brushstrokes. The cheeks are freckled with reddish-brown dots.
The short and irregularly shaped nose is rendered through light highlights. The eyes are depicted with a brown line, probably kohl; they have no eyelashes. A thin moustache joins up with a clipped beard, which underscores the angular shape of the chin and the elongated face. There is a small tuft of hair under the lower lip. The thin neck is particularly dark, creating a strong contrast with the white of the tunic. The painter accentuated this contrast by adding a thin line of pure white paint on the corners of the neckline.

A fashion dictated by the Severus emperors

This type of hairstyle and beard is similar to the imperial fashion inaugurated by the Severus emperors (AD 193-235). Both men and women adopted the hairstyle fashions dictated by the imperial Roman court. This type of overly elongated face corresponds to a physiognomy that appears on an entire series of painted portraits.

A technique from Antinoe

Three segments of the thin, small limewood board remain; they have been affixed to a modern support. The wood has numerous vertical cracks along the grain of the wood. The pictorial layer is worn in places, particularly under the ear. The small board has notches typically found in Antinoe portraits, which may be an indication of its provenance. A two-centimeter section on the lower side of the wood was not painted and remains unfinished. This unpainted strip, a common feature on wooden portraits, probably corresponds to the edge of the easel on which the painter placed the board as he worked.

Bibliography

P. Amiet et alii, Les collections du Louvre, Paris, 1989, p. 131 ;

J.-L. de Cenival, "Antiquités égyptiennes", Le Louvre. Sept visages d'un musée, Paris, 1986, n 96 ;

K. Parlasca, H. Seemann, catalogue de l'exposition Augenblicke, Mumienporträts un ägyptische Grabkunst aus römischer Zeit, Francfort, Schirn Kunsthalle, 30 janvier-11 avril 1999, n 183 ;

S. Walker (éd.), catalogue de l'exposition Ancient Faces. Mummy portraits from Roman Egypt, New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art, 15 février-7 mai 2000, n 54 ;

S. Walker, M. Bierbrier, catalogue de l'exposition Ancient Faces. Mummy portraits from Roman Egypt, Londres, British Museum, 1997, n 98 ;

Catalogue de l'exposition Portraits au Louvre, Tokyo, musée d'Art occidental, 18 septembre-1er décembre 1991, n 24 ;

Technical description

  • Portrait of a man

    AD late 2nd century-early 3rd century

    Unknown

  • Limewood painted with encaustic; stuccoed and painted plaster, inlaid eyes

    H. 38 cm; W. 24 cm

  • Unknown

    AF 6883, AF 2130

  • Egyptian Antiquities

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

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