Elderly Man Flanked by Egyptian Gods

Roman Period

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 138

This old man is painted in tempera on a fairly thick wooden panel. Drawn in black ink above his left shoulder is the falcon god Horus before a horned altar. Above his right shoulder is a ram wearing the composite atef crown. The ram represents a deity of the underworld (either the ba, or soul, of the sun god Re by night or the god Khnum) and is juxtaposed with Horus, a sky god.

Tempera portraits are matte and lack the relief effect created by encaustic paints. The tempera technique has long roots in Egyptian tradition. Because the medium does not cover well, wood panels were usually covered first with white gesso to enhance the colors. Because colors dry quickly and do not blend as encaustic does, tones were achieved by overpainting thin layers of color. Judging from its thickness and the five holes, this panel was tied onto a mummy or coffin rather than inserted within the wrappings.

Elderly Man Flanked by Egyptian Gods, Tempera on sycomore wood

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