Mummy portraits or Fayum portraits are the most astonishing body of painting to have come to us from the ancient world, they are remarkable for their social importance and for their quality as art.
In the late 1880s some mysterious portraits started to reach Western Europe and the United States of America. They came from Egypt’s Fayoum. A large collection was possessed by an Austrian man, Theodor Graf but the better documented ones were found at Hawara by the British archaeologist , W.M. Flinders Petrie.
” Fayoum Portraits ” is the name which has given to describe them because more have been found in the Fayoum Oasis than anywhere else in Egypt.
In technique ; some are painted in encaustic and some in tempera; some are on panel and some on linen ; some show heads only and some entire figures. Some seem to have been painted from life and hung on the wall in frames.
Today a lot of museums and antiquity collectors throughout the world posses hundreds of “Fayum portraits. ” There are some examples in Egypt, Europe and North America , including large and noteworthy collections at Berkeley, New York , and Boston.
In Fayoum’s Kom Oshim Museum there’s only one portrait on display!
Most of the mummy portraits that have survived have unfortunately become detached from their mummies. Because of this we rarely know the identities of these portraits.