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Visitor trails Funerary Art, Roman Egypt

Egyptian Antiquities - Length: 1 hr 30 mins - Tour days: Monday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday

School groups Groups

Egypte romaine (Salle A) - Art funéraire
Egypte romaine (Salle A) - Art funéraire

© Musée du Louvre/A. Dequier

00Introduction

The rooms devoted to Roman Egypt are temporarily closed to the public. The works presented in this thematic trail cannot be accessed. During the first three centuries AD, the Roman world encountered the beliefs and funerary practices of Egypt. The result was a fascinating combination of Pharaonic imagery and Hellenistic portraiture, reflected in the diversity of the Louvre collection.

After the Roman conquest of Egypt in 30 BC, Roman settlers quickly adopted local funerary customs and beliefs. These were based on the conviction that every person could attain life after death, through mummification and a process of assimilation or association with the god Osiris, the ruler of the Underworld. Anubis, the "conductor of souls" and the god of mummification, accompanied the deceased into the afterlife, where Osiris would judge his or her worthiness. The bodies and wrappings of Egyptian mummies were adorned with gold ornaments, charms and amulets fashioned using a variety of techniques. Some recall the Pharaonic tradition and incorporate images drawn from ancient Egyptian art, while others are surprisingly naïve. Roman settlers introduced a new element: a painted portrait placed on the mummy. Some take the form of relief masks in stucco with carefully-painted but highly stylized details, while others were painted directly onto the linen shroud enveloping the mummy and its wrappings, or on small wooden panels inserted into the wrappings around the head, as at Faiyum. These latter portraits, made from the 1st to 4th century AD, are often astonishingly lifelike.


How to get to the next stop:
Pass in front of the two small sphinxes guarding the entrance to the room. In the first bay on the right, note the work at the top right of display case 1.

 

Portrait of a man
Portrait of a man

© 2003 Musée du Louvre / Georges Poncet

01Portrait of a man

This portrait shows a man with a dark complexion and a long, slender face, accentuated by his pointed beard and hair. He is wearing a white tunic with purple clavi (bands or stripes), and a hairstyle popularized by the emperors Septimus Severus and Caracalla. The wooden panel was originally rectangular, and subsequently cut to fit the form of the mummy, for use as a funerary portrait.

How to get to the next stop:
In the same display case, note the work exhibited bottom right.

Portrait de femme
Portrait de femme

© R.M.N./G. Blot

02Portrait of a woman

This woman's hair, covering her ears and framing her slender face, is arranged with a central parting decorated with an ornament composed of three disks. She is also wearing pearl earrings and two necklaces. X-rays reveal that the original portrait was that of a much older woman with a strongly lined face. The painter subsequently "rejuvenated" the image by shortening her chin and smoothing her skin, probably at the request of his client, who wanted a more flattering portrait.

How to get to the next stop:
Note the third painting in this display case, bottom left.

Panel portrait of a man
Panel portrait of a man

© 2007 Musée du Louvre / Georges Poncet

03Panel portrait of a man

A coronet with large cabochon jewels sits atop the heavily-lined face. The figure is holding a glass of wine, and the garland presented by Osiris to the souls of the just. The swastika on the left shoulder is a solar symbol that originated in India. This panel portrait was attached by straps to the mummy, and buried with it in a terracotta coffin. The coffin was placed in a collective tomb installed in a chapel built within the precincts of the abandoned temple of Hatshepsut at Deir el-Bahri.

How to get to the next stop:
Turn around to see another remarkable portrait, in display case 3.

Mummy mask of a man with headrest
Mummy mask of a man with headrest

© 2005 Musée du Louvre / Christian Larrieu

04Mummy mask of a man with headrest

The portrait shows a man with a fair complexion and a mustache, beard and gray hair. He is wearing a white, long-sleeved tunic and a fringed scarf, also white. He has a ring on the little finger of his left hand; a gilded crown, probably of myrtle leaves, rests on his head. The deceased is portrayed on the back of the casket as Osiris, with Isis, Nephthys (the goddess of the Underworld, and of childbirth) and the four sons of Horus.

How to get to the next stop:
Leave the bay by the right and go to display case 6 at the back of the room.

Funerary hanging
Funerary hanging

© 2007 Musée du Louvre / Christian Décamps

05Funerary hanging

Three large figures are painted standing on the solar boat used by the sun-god Re to traverse the heavens. In the center is the deceased, a young man wearing a white Roman tunic with narrow dark stripes, and a white cloak decorated with a motif in the form of an "H". He is holding the crown of roses presented by Osiris to the souls of the just. To the right, Anubis, the god of the dead and the conductor of souls to the afterlife, is wearing a solar disk headdress; his left hand rests on the shoulder of the deceased in a protective gesture. To the left, the deceased is represented as the deity Osiris, wrapped in strips from which his hands and head emerge. Osiris's face is painted in accordance with the canons of Hellenistic naturalism, in contrast to the stylized, linear representations of the Egyptian style.

How to get to the next stop:
Retrace your steps to display case 7, in the first bay to the right.

Mask of a Woman
Mask of a Woman

© 1993 Musée du Louvre / Christian Larrieu

06Mask of a woman

The eyes in this portrait are made of black glass and alabaster. The nose, lips and dimpled chin describe a Greek profile. The wavy hair falls behind the ears in long curls. A line of short curly locks fall over the forehead; two strands spiral over the temples in front of the ears, which are decorated with hooped earrings, each bearing three pearls. The hairstyle was fashionable in Egypt during the Ptolemaic era.

How to get to the next stop:
Note the work to the left, in the same display case.

Portrait of a woman, known as "L'Européenne"
Portrait of a woman, known as "L'Européenne"

© 2009 Musée du Louvre / Georges Poncet

07Portrait of a woman, known as "L'Européenne"

The woman's hair is pulled back and arranged in a braid fixed on the top of the head with a gold hairpin. Her large ears are adorned with pearl earrings. Her purple robe is pinned at the chest by a brooch set with an emerald. The gold leaf on the neck was probably applied when the portrait was adapted for use as a funerary image. X-rays reveal that the woman originally wore a simple necklace of large pearls.

How to get to the next stop:
Pause to admire the portrait of a young woman in the center of display case 8, in the next bay to your right.

Mummy of a woman with portrait
Mummy of a woman with portrait

© 2007 Musée du Louvre / Christian Décamps

08Mummy of a woman with portrait

This portrait is still framed in a diamond shape formed by the strips of cloth that were wrapped around the mummy. The young woman wears a green tunic decorated with a strip of red and white triangles at the neckline. She has a stone necklace and pearl earrings. Her hair is braided and wrapped around her head like a coronet, a style fashionable during the reign of the Emperor Hadrian. An inscription on the bandages wishes the deceased a "safe journey," using a traditional Greek formula.

How to get to the next stop:
Note the work exhibited to the right.

Deux portraits de femme
Deux portraits de femme

© Musée du Louvre/C. Larrieu

09Mask of a woman

Gold leaf covers the facial skin and smiling mouth of this mask. Only the eyes and eyebrows have been painted. A pink band holds the twisted braid of hair on the top of the head. The locks on the forehead are painted in a scalloped pattern, and the thick eyebrows are rendered by cross-hatching. Eyelashes have been individually drawn around the contours of the eyes.

How to get to the next stop:
Look at the mask below left, in the same display case.

Masque plastron de Cratès
Masque plastron de Cratès

© R.M.N./F. Raux

10Panel portrait of Crates

Two falcon-headed spirits frame a winged scarab (the image of the sun god) and a design arranged in three registers depicting the protective deities and the stages of the journey to eternal life. The deceased, by the name of Crates, is shown with a gilded face, wearing a crown of leaves and cabochons and an Egyptian-style veil. He was buried with four other members of his family in a wooden coffin in the cellar of a home in the village of Deir-el-Medina.

How to get to the next stop:
Note the interesting panel portrait above this work.

Portrait of a woman
Portrait of a woman

© Musée du Louvre/G. Poncet

11Portrait of a woman

The colors on this mask are well-preserved, depicting a face with prominent cheekbones, an aquiline nose and parted lips. The hair is thickly braided and arranged in a chignon on the top of the head, in a style similar to that known to have been worn by Sabine, the wife of the Emperor Hadrian. This mask was not mass-produced, and seems to be a genuine likeness.

How to get to the next stop:
Retrace your steps to display case 9, and a portait featuring a wealth of detail.

Panel portrait of a woman
Panel portrait of a woman

© R.M.N./Les frères Chuzeville

12Panel portrait of a woman

The portrait shows a young woman with a fleshy face and a dimpled chin. She is wearing a large quantity of jewelry, painted yellow to imitate gold. The earrings are in the shape of grape clusters; two chains and a pearl necklace with three pendants hang around her neck. She wears two heavy bangles on each wrist (one of which can no longer be seen). Her left hand is adorned with three rings, including a double ring linking the middle and third fingers. In her right hand, she holds the crown of roses presented by Osiris to the souls of the just; in her left hand are ears of wheat and poppies.

How to get to the next stop:
The portrait of "Ammonios" is also in display case 9, in the adjacent bay.

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

© 1998 Musée du Louvre / Georges Poncet

13Fragment of a funerary shroud, known as "Portrait of Ammonios"

his painted bust-length portrait appears on a fragment of a large shroud that was wrapped around a mummy. An ankh (the hieroglyphic sign for "life") and a kneeling deity were depicted next to the head. The young man's highly distinctive features make this a quite striking portrait. He is wearing a white tunic with purple clavi (bands) and a cloak covering his left shoulder. He holds a cantharus decorated with cabochons in his right hand, and a wreath of rose petals in his left. The deceased has been known as "Ammonios" since his portrait entered the Louvre collection, although the origin of the name remains unclear.

How to get to the next stop:
The shroud of a small child is displayed to the left of this work.

Shroud of a child's mummy
Shroud of a child's mummy

© 2007 Musée du Louvre / Christian Décamps

14Shroud of a child's mummy

A wreath of flowers frames this work. A young child is represented within a tabernacle-style framework that reveals his head, arms and upper torso, and his feet. Two vertical strips to either side feature painted vignettes showing the stages of the journey to the afterlife. The boy is wearing a tunic richly decorated with strips of tapestry and adorned with jewelry, notably a torque decorated with a bulla (a round amulet worn by Roman children). His stylized features are characteristic of children's portraits of the time.

How to get to the next stop:
This celebrated face from Antiquity concludes the tour. The panel may be seen in the small display case at the back of the bay, to the left.

Portrait of a woman
Portrait of a woman

© 2007 Musée du Louvre / Georges Poncet

15Portrait of a woman

The face of this young woman is turned towards the viewer, while her bust is turned slightly to the left. She is wearing a dark tunic with green stripes or bands, and a dark cloak. Her hair is parted and falls over her ears. A braid of hair is wrapped around the top of her head, and her forehead is framed with a line of curls. The lips are very finely-drawn. The dark-colored clothing, severe hairstyle and discreet jewelry contrast with the woman's youthful face.

How to get to the next stop:
Retrace your steps to the Hall Napoléon beneath the Pyramid.


Author(s) :
Roberta Cortopassi, département des Antiquités égyptiennes