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Work Mummy of a woman with portrait

Department of Egyptian Antiquities: Religious and funerary beliefs

Mummy of a woman with portrait

© 2007 Musée du Louvre / Christian Décamps

Egyptian Antiquities
Religious and funerary beliefs

Roberta Cortopassi

This young woman's portrait was fixed in place with the bandages enveloping her mummy. The meticulously arranged bandages form a rhomboidal design imitating the protective netting. There is a Greek inscription painted in black ink on the chest. X-ray analysis has shown that the deceased was a forty year-old woman, and not the young woman in the portrait, which is a depiction of her eternal youth as an Osiris.

A painted portrait of a woman

Standing out against a light gray background, she is gazing straight at us. Her mouth is small, her nose large, round and hooked, and she has very large ears. Her hair is drawn back into a braid on the top of her head. Her earrings are composed of a small ring with a diamond-shaped pendant with a small red stone in the middle and a pearl at the tip. The painter skilfully depicted the necklace of precious stones, a regular succession of long green emeralds, rectangular yellow topazes, round red garnets and small gold beads.
The woman is wearing a dark blue tunic with green clavi. The collar decorated with black and white triangles is part of the same tunic or an undergarment. A pink mantle is draped over one shoulder.

An adieu in Greek

Authors have interpreted the Greek inscription - ΕΥΨΥΧΙ ΕΥΔΑΙΜΟΝΙ – differently, some as the dual greeting, “Goodbye, be happy,” or as “adieu” followed by the deceased’s name, “Eudaimon.” The sober hairstyle, typical of the period of emperor Hadrian (117−138 AD), is one of the elements indicating its date.

An artfully prepared mummy

The mummy’s very regular form was obtained by inserting strips of wood between the body and bandages. This was necessary for the perfect arrangement of the outer bandages, which form an interlocking diamond pattern on the body and squares on the feet.
The plaque of wood has the "shouldered" cut of the portraits from Antinoopolis. The marks the saw made in the paint are clearly visible in the light gray background next to the neck. The use of a wax-based paint produced the thick impasto characteristic of this technique.


- BOURGUET P. (du), L’art copte, Petits guides des grands musées n° 19, Paris, 1980, fig. p. 2.

- DOXIADIS E., Portraits du Fayoum. Visages de l’Egypte ancienne, Paris, 1995, n° 92 p. 150 et 217.

- DUNAND F., LICHTENBERG R., Les momies, un voyage dans l’éternité, Découvertes Gallimard n° 118, Paris, 1991, p. 36.

- PARLASCA K., SEEMANN H., Augenblicke, Mumienporträts un ägyptische Grabkunst aus römischer Zeit, catalogue de l’exposition, Francfort, Schirn Kunsthalle, 30 janvier-11 avril 1999, n° 182.

-  WALKER S., BIERBRIER M., Ancient Faces. Mummy portraits from Roman Egypt, catalogue de l’exposition, Londres, British Museum, 1997, n° 99.

Technical description

  • Mummy of a woman with portrait

    2nd century AD

    Antinoopolis (?)

  • Painted wood, linen canvas

    H. 1.58 m; W. 0.30 m; D. 0.26 m

  • AF 6882

  • Egyptian Antiquities

    Denon wing
    Lower ground floor
    Roman Egypt (room closed for renovation)
    Room 183

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