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The Mysterious Fayum Portraits

Faces from Ancient Egypt

Euphrosyne Doxiadis

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A highly acclaimed survey of the enigmatic and compelling funeral portraits created by the inhabitants of Roman Egypt in the 1st century AD


These remarkable paintings take their name from a district of Roman Egypt, whose people in the first three centuries ad included Greeks, Egyptians, Romans, Syrians, Libyans, Nubians and Jews. In the Egyptian tradition, they embalmed the bodies of their dead; but then placed a painted portrait over the mummy, preserving the memory of each individual to an uncanny degree. Over 1000 have so far been discovered – men, women and children of all ages. Illustrating almost 200 of the portraits, Euphrosyne Doxiadis’s book combines arresting beauty with up-to-date scholarship. Having selected the best and most interesting, she has grouped them according to the places where they were found. Many new photographs were commissioned and some are shown since cleaning.

Doxiadis’s text sets the people and the paintings in their social, artistic and geographical context, describing the techniques used and showing how the Fayum portraits relate to Byzantine icon painting, in a tradition that extends from ancient Greece to the Renaissance and on to the present day.

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'The best text currently available on late classical portraiture and the origin of the icon'
William Dalrymple, The Spectator

'The many astonishingly beautiful faces that greet the reader from the pages of this book are supported by a scholarly text, archaeological, art historical, technical and deeply sensitive'
Brian Sewell, Evening Standard

Product Information

Book Details

Format: Paperback with flaps

Size: 32.0 x 24.0 cm

Extent: 248 pp

Illustrations: 274

Publication date: 17 July 2000

ISBN: 9780500282175

Contents List

Foreword by Dorothy L. Thompson • Introduction • I Graeco-Roman Egypt • II The Portraits • III The Find-Sites Commentaries on the Portraits

About the Author

Euphrosyne Doxiadis is a Greek artist and writer. She was born in Athens and studied art in Salzburg, at the Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, and at the Slade School of Fine Art and the Wimbledon School of Art in London. Her interest in the Fayum portraits was kindled by working with the distinguished Greek painter Yannis Tsarouchis.

List of Contributors

Dorothy J. Thompson