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Greco-Roman, A Young Woman

Key facts
Full title A Young Woman
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 NG3931
Location On loan: Long loan to the British Museum (Jan 2024 - Dec 2026), The British Museum, London, UK
Collection Main Collection
A Young Woman

The woman in this portrait wears gold, ball-shaped earrings, a golden braided chain and a necklace made up of rectangular emeralds with alternating gold details. Her rich red tunic has a black gold-edged stripe at her right side: this is a clavus, a sign of status in Rome. The artist records her features with accuracy: her large, almond-shaped eyes slant upwards, she has a low forehead, a long thin nose, a plump but small mouth and a small, square chin.

The portrait dates to the first century AD when Egypt was part of the Roman Empire. It was probably commissioned at death and then placed into the case holding her mummified body. This kind of burial rite and portrait image were only possible for the wealthiest citizens. The woman came from a mixed society of Greeks, Romans and Egyptians, which explains her choice of Roman fashion and Egyptian burial custom.

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