Mummy portraits, often painted on wooden panels, were made during the Roman period in Egypt, from the 1st to the 4th century AD, and placed over the faces of mummified persons. They are also known as Fayum portraits, after the region where most works were excavated. Some 38 portraits from all over the world have been gathered for this exhibition. They bring us face to face with just as many individuals who had themselves immortalized almost 2000 years ago.
Face to Face introduces visitors not only to the people portrayed but also to the makers, descendants, followers, collectors, archaeologists and researchers connected to these portraits. The exhibition gives a voice to various individuals who reflect on the portraits from their respective fields of expertise. Who were the people portrayed? How were they depicted and why? By whom were they seen?
The mummy portraits capture the imagination because of their clothing, their penetrating gaze and especially their modern-looking realism. They are artistic expressions whose painting technique (encaustic) can be found in later Byzantine icons but also inspired artists of the late 19th and early 20th century. To this day, they are seen as an example of the earliest known realistically painted portraiture.
The exhibition is drawing on the latest knowledge of mummy portraiture and on the findings of technical research into materials, initiated by the Allard Pierson. The Allard Pierson is working on this project with research partners in Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and the United States, and is a partner of APPEAR, a research network of 60 museums that focus specifically on mummy portraits. The first findings of the research into the twelve mummy portraits will be shared in the exhibition.
Face to Face. The People Behind Mummy Portraits
6 October 2023 – 25 February 2024
There’s an additional surcharge of € 5 for this exhibition.