About This Artwork

Roman, Egypt, Fayum region

Mummy Portrait of a Man Wearing an Ivy Wreath, 2nd century A.D.

Wax, gold, pigment and wood
39.4 x 22 x 3.5 cm (15 1/2 x 8 5/8 x 1 3/8 in.)

Gift of Emily Crane Chadbourne, 1922.4798

This portrait belongs to a large group of similar works known as “Fayum portraits,” so-named for the region in northern Egypt in which many have been discovered. To create this man’s likeness, the artist painted a thin piece of wood with encaustic, or pigmented wax, a medium that not only gave the impression of three-dimensionality but also resisted fading and deterioration in the dry climate of Egypt. These highly individualized and lifelike portraits conveyed the wealth and status of the person depicted through clothing, jewelry, and other embellishments, such as the gold wreath of ivy worn by this man.

—Permanent collection label


Created to be used as a mummy head cover, this painting conforms to the Roman taste for realistic portraiture and is a true likeness of the deceased. The portrait, painted in pigmented wax, was probably hung in the man’s home during his lifetime. At his death, a gold leaf wreath was added to his portrait. Then, the portrait was wrapped in the mummy bundle, as can be seen from the dark fabric stains on the wood. By the time it was made, mummification had been adopted by some Greeks and Romans, with the slight variation of a portrait as a face cover.

— Exhibition label, When the Greeks Ruled: Egypt After Alexander the Great, October 31, 2013–July 27, 2014, Gallery 154.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

The Art Institute of Chicago, Ancient Art Galleries, Gallery 154A, April 20, 1994 - February 6, 2012.

The Art Institute of Chicago, Of Gods and Glamour: The Mary and Michael Jaharis Galleries of Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Art, Gallery 152, October 25, 2013- October 23, 2013.

The Art Institute of Chicago, When the Greeks Ruled: Egypt After Alexander the Great, October 31, 2013 - July 27, 2014.

Publication History

Thomas George Allen. 1923. A Handbook of The Egyptian Collection. (Chicago: The Art Institute of
Chicago, 1923) p. 161(ill.), 162.

Klaus Parlasca. 1966. Mumienporträts und Verwandte Denkmäler. Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner Verlag GMBH, p. 42 (176n.).

Bulletin of The Art Institute of Chicago. November-December, Volume 72 - No. 6, (Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago, 1978), pp. 1-4.

Emily Teeter. Ancient Art at The Art Institute of Chicago. The Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies, 1994, Vol. 20, No. 1, p. 31 (ill.).

James Wood. 2000. Treasures from The Art Institute of Chicago, p. 69 (ill.). Chicago: The Art Institute of Chicago.

Karen B. Alexander. "From Plaster to Stone: Ancient Art at the Art Institute of Chicago." In Recasting the Past: Collecting and Presenting Antiquities at the Art Institute of Chicago, by Karen Manchester, p. 29. Art Institute of Chicago/Yale University Press, 2012.

Klaus Parlasca. Ritratti di Mummie, Serie B, vol. II, no. 373, Tav. 40. 3 and 129.




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