Mummy with an Inserted Panel Portrait of a Youth

Roman Period

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 137

This mummified body belongs to a man whose name is unknown. A panel was inserted over his face and is still in its orginal position. The portrait depicts a youth with large deep-set eyes and a down-turned mouth. His downy moustache indicates that he is no older than his early twenties. A number of mummy portraits represent youths with their first facial hair, a feature that had particular connotations in the Greek-educated society of Roman Egypt. The incipient moustache was both an indicator of the young man's entrance into important social groups and a signal that he was at the prime of sexual attractiveness and vigor.

In this era mummies might be kept above ground for periods of some months up to several years before final burial. Most probably they were deposited in chapels in cemeteries, where they were visited by relatives for ritual meals.

Panel portraits continue to fascinate visitors and scholars in our day and age. This portrait here was even used to illustrate racist and antisemitic literature. To learn more about this dark moment in the object’s biography, read the curatorial interpretation below (also available, with images, here).

Link to the Artist Project
Y.Z. Kami on Egyptian mummy portraits

#3532. Mummy with an Inserted Panel Portrait of a Youth



  1. 3532. Mummy with an Inserted Panel Portrait of a Youth
  2. 3682. Mummy with an Inserted Panel Portrait of a Youth
Mummy with an Inserted Panel Portrait of a Youth, Human remains wrapped with linen and mummification material; panel portrait: encaustic on limewood

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