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The Painted Gaze: Funerary Portraiture in Roman Egypt

Course Times & Enrolment

This course is currently unavailable.

Course Summary

The so-called ‘mummy portraits’ of Roman Egypt are enigmatic, being still open to a range of interesting scholarly interpretations. Working with materials held by the National Museums of Scotland, this illustrated course will investigate the artistic interactions between Egypt and Rome, and the birth of portraiture.

Course Details

Pre-requisites for enrolment

No previous knowledge required.

Content of Course

Three sessions of two hours each, as follows:

  1. The Making of the Mummy Portraits
    When, where and how the portraits were made – the range of different styles and techniques. Who would have commissioned them, and how would they have been viewed?
  2. Viewing the Mummy Portraits
    The context of Egyptian religious practice concerning death and the after-life – other kinds of funerary art of the period. This session to include visit to the NMS to see their collection of funerary art from Roman Egypt
  3. Meanings of the Mummy Portraits
    Why were they made? A deeper investigation of the distinctive kind of viewing experience these portraits may have been intended to stimulate

Teaching method(s)

Lectures, class discussion and museum visit.

Learning outcomes

By the end of this course, students should be able to:

  • describe the creative process and techniques of making the portraits;
  • understand the religious context in which they were made and viewed;
  • appreciate how the portraits might represent a new dimension to the classical tradition of portraiture;
  • be aware of the possible connection between the portraits and the origins of the Christian icon tradition.


Core Readings


Doxiadis, E. (1995) The Mysterious Fayum Portraits: Faces from Ancient Egypt. London: Thames and Hudson.
Roberts, P. (2008) Mummy Portraits from Roman Egypt. London: British Museum Press.

Class Handouts

handouts will be provided.

Student support

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