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Greco-Roman, 'A Man with a Wreath', probably 2nd to 3rd century

Key facts
Full title A Man with a Wreath
Artist Greco-Roman
Date made probably 2nd to 3rd century
Medium and support Probably encaustic on wood
Dimensions 42 × 22 cm
Acquisition credit Mond Bequest, 1924
Inventory number NG3932
Location On loan: Long loan to the British Museum (Jan 2024 - Dec 2026), The British Museum, London, UK
Collection Main Collection
A Man with a Wreath

This portrait was excavated from a burial chamber and dates to the second century AD, when Egypt was part of the Roman Empire. A middle-aged man directly confronts the viewer through his large heavy-lidded, golden-brown eyes. His portraitist has taken care to paint every hair of his beard and moustache so that they appear coarse and wiry. A gold wreath of leaves with a flower at its centre garlands his curly hair. Folds of cream-coloured drapery curve around his neck, crossing diagonally at his chest. At the far left of his tunic is a deep red clavus, a coloured stripe that denoted status in Rome.

The painting was probably commissioned at the man’s death and then set into the case containing his mummified body. Only the wealthiest citizens would have been able to afford this kind of burial rite and image. He came from a mixed society of Greeks, Romans and Egyptians, explaining his choice of Roman fashion and Egyptian burial custom.

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