The Cleveland Museum of Art

Collection Online as of June 25, 2017

Funerary Portrait of a Young Girl, c. 25-37

encaustic on wood, Overall: 39.4 x 17.4 cm (15 1/2 x 6 13/16 in). John L. Severance Fund 1971.137

Traditional Egyptian burial practices continued well into Roman times. These lifelike portraits were made for a specific purpose, namely, to cover the head of the mummified individual represented in the portrait. Typically, they were painted with encaustic (pigment mixed with beeswax) on wooden panels, as was the case with the Funerary Portrait of a Young Girl. Less frequently, they were painted directly onto the linen shrouds that covered the mummy, which is how the other two examples shown here were made.
Hairstyles, jewelry, and clothing are carefully rendered according to contemporary fashion. Meticulously rendered details such as skin tone, facial hair, and bone structure suggest a keen sense of the subject's individuality, and with it, an inevitable sense of mortality. The addition of gilded details on the lips and jewelry of the young girl is a rare detail that alludes to the individual's transformation in death into a blessed spirit, or akh, a being of light.

CMA 1972, no. 4, illus. p. 5

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