Portraits such as this one acted as a ‘death mask’ to be bound to their subject’s mummified body before burial. Wealthy Egyptians wanted their portraits to appear as realistic as possible to preserve their image after death. The man in this portrait is unknown. The portrait is unusual in that it shows its subject in middle age, whereas mummy portraits of this type more commonly show their subjects at a younger age. The vivid colours were made from hot beeswax mixed with coloured pigments painted onto a wooden board. The painting’s realistic style is more in keeping with Greco-Roman artistic traditions than Egyptian ones.
Sigmund Freud was a great collector of Egyptian art and he bought this painting from the Austrian art dealer Theodor Graf. It is still displayed in his study today.
Where to see this painting?
Freud Museum London
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