The beautiful young woman from Fayoum in the red tunic

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Portrait called “du Fayoum” representing a young woman in red
Roman Egypt – 90 – 120 AD – Encaustic painting on the lime tree, gold leaf
Acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art – Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1909 – Accession Number: 09.181.6
at the antique dealer Maurice Nahman in Cairo in 1909 – Photo du Met

There’s no doubt that we men, might accept the loos comparing to women. Because, if we consider being on the same level with the female side, we can’t hold out with their beauty. Here another wonderful description of this beauty. by http://Marie Grillot

https://www.facebook.com/marie.grillot

Via https://egyptophile.blogspot.com/ translated from French.

The features of this beautiful young woman are unquestionably “contemporary” … and yet, she lived over 19 centuries ago, when Egypt was “Roman” …

Her face is beautiful, interesting, it seems to question us beyond time … The slits which cross it, the cracks which gangrene the left cheek in no way tarnish its softness, nor alter its “presence”.

The complexion is treated in light tones … The mouth, with its slight asymmetry of the upper lip, is nicely drawn. The chin is barely bulging, the nose is thin…

As is often the case with this kind of portrait, our gaze is captivated by the gaze, animated by large almond-shaped eyes. The white of the cornea with its transparency so special is perfectly rendered, we almost seem to detect the outline of a tear … The dark iris and the pupil, very round, are marked with concentric circles. The expression of the look is serious but so alive …

Portrait called “du Fayoum” representing a young woman in red
Roman Egypt – 90 – 120 AD – Encaustic painting on lime tree, gold leaf
Acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art – Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1909 – Accession Number: 09.181.6
at the antique dealer Maurice Nahman in Cairo in 1909 – Photo du Met

This gravity is accentuated by the dark arch of the thick eyebrows which faithfully follows the shape of the eyes. The lower lashes are materialized by fine, spaced and black lines that stand out against slightly grey rings. The upper edge of the eye is underlined with a line of “kohol” but the eyebrows are not treated individually. As for the corner of the eye, it is affirmed by a touch of fleeting paint.

The brown hair is styled in a multitude of fine, tight curls, which are a little freer at the level of temples and ears. A precise study of the hairstyles was made in order to refine the dating of these portraits of Fayoum; thus: “Loose loops around the face with corkscrew loops in front of the ears suggest a date of around 100-120 AD” (source “Ancient Faces”).

Portrait called “du Fayoum” representing a young woman in red
Roman Egypt – 90 – 120 AD – Encaustic painting on the lime tree, gold leaf
Acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art – Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1909 – Accession Number: 09.181.6
at the antique dealer Maurice Nahman in Cairo in 1909 – Photo du Met

The hair is adorned with a golden crown, perfectly rendered by flat areas of gold leaf, which take the form of rectangles or diamonds.

The earrings, also covered with gold leaf, are difficult to identify … It could be two or three spaced pearls, arranged on an oblong rod, in gold, a model in fashion at that time … Quant its necklace, choker, it is made up of large gold links, round or oval …

She is dressed in a “clavi tunic” which must have been a vermilion red but whose hue has faded over time. We can see the drape of a coat, in the same tones. The lines of paint skillfully suggest the folds of the clothes as well as their superimposition.

“This portrait is painted in the Greek style: the head is seen in a three-quarter view with indications of volume and depth, and with reflections and shadows that suggest a single source of light. From the middle of the first About the same century, portraits of panels of this style were sometimes inserted on the faces of mummies. The custom was particularly widespread in the region of Fayoum in Egypt, where the population had a strong mixture of “Greek” “analysis” The Year One: Art of the Ancient World East and West “.

Dated from the very beginning of the Christian era (90 – 200 AD), this portrait is exhibited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (Accession Number: 09.181.6.) On their site, it is thus described: “The background of this portrait was originally gilded, underlining the divine status of the deceased young woman. She looks at the viewer with large serious eyes, accented by long eyelashes. A mass of loose curls covers her head and some strands fall along the nape of the neck on the left side. Framed by black hair, deeply shaded neck and dark red tunic, his brightly lit face is distinguished by an attractive youth, an impression which is accentuated by the crown of and sparkling jewellery “. Time has made the gilding go…

In the Louvre book “Portraits of Roman Egypt”, it is specified that: “The presence of gold on portraits painted on wood must reconcile divinity and individuality, consequently gold is never applied to the face. Thus, it can cover the frame surrounding the head of the deceased assimilated to Osiris-Dionysos, or cover the background on which the portrait stands out. Gold leaf is sometimes applied in contact with the skin, on the line which shares women’s hair or on their throats. “

Portrait called “du Fayoum” representing a young woman in red
Roman Egypt – 90 – 120 AD – Encaustic painting on the lime tree, gold leaf
Acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art – Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1909 – Accession Number: 09.181.6
at the antique dealer Maurice Nahman in Cairo in 1909 – Photo du Met

This portrait is painted “encaustic”, on a linden plank with a height of 38.1 cm and a width of 18.4 cm.

The technique of this type of painting was as follows: the surface of the wood (lime, or even fig, cedar, sycamore) was previously smoothed and coated; the sketch was then executed in red or black. “Then the portrait was made using mineral and vegetable pigments linked with heated wax (encaustic), which allows a slow and meticulous work resulting in small close touches for the face, the neck and the hairstyle, the clothing being treated with large brush strokes. “

“Tempera” which uses a binder based on vegetable gum is also used. “It gives a flat and graphic character to the portrait and translates the model by a network of fine cross-hatching.” Sometimes the two techniques are wisely combined by the painter. The colours generally used are white, black, red, two ochres. Gold leaf is often applied, sometimes in the hair, sometimes in background colour and always to make the shine of adornments and jewellery.

The artists who produced these portraits were “itinerant” and never signed them; so they remained anonymous… but there is no doubt that the one who painted it was an excellent portrait painter!

We know almost nothing about this beautiful lady who lived in Fayoum during the 1st century AD. AD, except that it had to belong to a wealthy class because only the wealthy could afford quality funeral rituals…
At that time, after being Greek, Egypt became Roman and cosmopolitan, mixing Egyptians, Greeks and Romans. The new “masters of the country” adopted the funeral customs of Pharaonic Egypt and the Romans introduced the art of portraiture.

How did she get into the great New York museum? This indicates that this man did it, thanks to the Rogers Fund in 1909 and also, it had been bought, the same year, in Cairo, by Maurice Nahman…

Maurice Nahman posing in front of his gallery in Cairo in the 1940s (photo from Galerie L’Ibis)

The “Who was Who in Egyptology” informs us that this man was born in Cairo in a line of bankers and that he will follow the family’s professional path. His retirement will then allow him to devote himself to his passion: antiques and, from 1890 to their trade. His reputation will be excellent and, in 1913, he will open a gallery at 24 Madebergh Street (now Sherif Street) in Cairo, where the biggest museums will come to stock …

This is how this beautiful lady from the old world set out for the New World…

Marie Grillot

Sources:

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/collection/search/547860?searchField=All&sortBy=Relevance&ft=portrait+of+a+young+woman&offset=0&rpp=20&pos=1Græco-Egyptian Portraits, by Lythgoe, Albert M., Publication date 1910-03-01, Publisher The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin

https://archive.org/details/jstor-3253332/page/n3/mode/2upAncient Faces: Mummy Portraits from Roman Egypt by Susan Walker, Metropolitan Museum of Art

https://books.google.fr/books?id=t9RM6G-nHOoC&printsec=frontcover&hl=fr&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=falseThe Year One: Art of the Ancient World East and West, Milleker, Elizabeth J., Christopher Lightfoot, Melanie Holcomb, Marsha Hill, Jean Evans, Joan Aruz, Denise Patry Leidy, and Julie Jones (2000)

https://www.metmuseum.org/art/metpublications/The_Year_One_Art_of_the_Ancient_World_East_and_West page 99Portraits of Roman Egypt, Louvre, RMN, 1998The silent apostrophe – Essay on the portraits of Fayoum, Jean-Christophe Bailly

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