About This Artwork

Roman

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

Lime (linden) wood, beeswax, pigments, gold, textile, natural resin
39.4 x 22 x 0.2 cm (15 1/2 x 8 5/8 x 1/16 in.), depth with support 3.5 cm (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.


This work appears in the online catalogue Roman Art at the Art Institute of Chicago, featuring art historical essays and conservation reports on artworks from the ancient Roman world in the Art Institute’s collection. Entries include new high-resolution photography, stunning 360-degree views of the works, and in-depth technical imaging and analysis. The volume is free to the public.

Exhibition, Publication and Ownership Histories

Exhibition History

Art Institute of Chicago, Grave Goods from Ancient Cultures, November 19, 1991–May 17, 1992, no cat.

Art Institute of Chicago, When the Greeks Ruled: Egypt after Alexander the Great, October 31, 2013–July 27, 2014, no cat.

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.

Publication History

Sandra E. Knudsen, with contributions by Rachel C. Sabino, “Cats. 155-156 Two Mummy Portraits: Curatorial Entry,” in Roman Art at the Art Institute of Chicago (Art Institute of Chicago, 2016).

Rachel C. Sabino, “Cat. 155 Mummy Portrait of a Man Wearing an Ivy Wreath: Technical Report,” in Roman Art at the Art Institute of Chicago (Art Institute of Chicago, 2016).

Thomas George Allen, A Handbook of the Egyptian Collection of the Art Institute of Chicago (University of Chicago Press, 1923), pp. 160–62 (ill.).

Cornelius C. Vermeule III, “Greek and Roman Portraits in North American Collections Open to the Public: A Survey of Important Monumental Likenesses in Marble and Bronze Which Have Not Been Published Extensively,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 108, 2 (1964), p. 103.

Klaus Parlasca, Mumienporträts und verwandte Denkmäler (Steiner, 1966), pp. 42, 176n.

David L. Thompson, “Four ‘Fayum’ Portraits in the Getty Museum,” J. Paul Getty Museum Journal 2 (1975), p. 92.

Klaus Parlasca, Ritratti di mummie, Repertorio d’arte dell’Egitto greco-romano, series B, ed. A. Adriani (L’Erma di Bretschneider, 1977), vol. 2, p. 61, no. 373 (1922.4799), pl. 90, fig. 4; p. 61, no. 374 (1922.4798), pl. 90, fig. 3; vol. 4 (2003), p. 160.

Louise Berge, “Two ‘Fayum’ Portraits,” Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago 72, 6 (Nov.–Dec. 1978), pp. 1–4, cover (ill.) (1922.4798); p. 2 (ill.) (1922.4799).

Emily Teeter, “Egyptian Art,” in “Ancient Art at the Art Institute of Chicago,” special issue, Art Institute of Chicago Museum Studies 20, 1 (1994), pp. 30–31, cat. 16 (ill.).

Barbara Borg, Mumienporträts: Chronologie und kultureller Kontext (Zabern, 1996), pp. 92, 102, 107, 122, 186, pl. 24.

Art Institute of Chicago, Treasures from the Art Institute of Chicago, selected by James N. Wood, commentaries by Debra N. Mancoff (Art Institute of Chicago, 2000), p. 69 (ill.).



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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