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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Painted Funerary Portraits


The term “painted funerary portraits” used here encompasses a group of portraits painted on either wooden panels or on linen shrouds that were used to decorate portrait mummies from Roman Egypt (conventionally called “mummy portraits”). They have been found in cemeteries in almost all parts of Egypt, from the coastal city of Marina el-Alamein to Aswan in Upper Egypt, and originate from the early first century AD to the mid third century with the possible exception of a small number of later shrouds. Their patrons were a wealthy local elite influenced by Hellenistic and Roman culture but deeply rooted in Egyptian religious belief. To date, over 1000 portraits, but only a few complete mummies, are known and are dispersed among museums and collections on every continent.

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