Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Ancient Portraits

Even while I have been with you, you have not seen my soul; you knew it was in this body because of the actions that I performed. In the future, too, my soul will remain invisible to you but you should still be able to credit its existence just as you always have.                
  On Old Age by Cicero

I found these expressive portraits of ancient Romans which adorned their stone caskets. I believe these were all found in Egypt. I also took the liberty of "restoring" the painting slightly, enough to eliminate the distractions but not enough to affect the wonderful detail.  
When I look into their eyes, I cannot help but feel a kind of closeness, a kinship that stretches over time. I could pass them on the streets of Izmir today.
This man here, for example, looks like an angry man. Certainly a very serious person. Where did all that determination come from and where did it go?
I wonder how he treated his wife and children.

Here is the young scholar, no doubt.  Imagine what kind of devastation was left behind when he died at this early age. All his father's dreams were scattered to the winds.
I am not sure but I think I might have taught this young man. He looks awfully familiar but , despite appearances, I am not quite THAT old.

Exactly the kind of face you would see going to a football match on a Sunday afternoon. To me, that slight smile suggests a playful sense of humor. 
Actually those colors belong to Goztepe, don't they?

I think the texture of the damage to the paint adds a lot to the portrait.
A young wife and mother, I presume. Probably not an aristocrat, she seems fairly tanned.
Beloved daughter?
priestportrait (1)

This is clearly a doctor you would take orders from and trust. I don't know why I thought he was a doctor but maybe it is that star-shaped head piece. Maybe he's a priest?
If you look very closely at the eyes, they seem slightly crossed. But when you stand further back- they sit perfectly in the face.
This is not a person I would want to get into an argument with.

Even though this last portrait is probably the least realistic, I think I might like this one the most. On the other hand, look at the curls of hair on her forehead.  
I am curious about the shape of her neck though.
Which one is your favorite?


  1. I also like the last one best...in spite of the neck...although do you think it may be a collar or necklace of some kind. I'm sure it can't be excess fat as the face is too thin. They're all very interesting portraits though. I'm always drawn immediately to eyes...the window to the soul as they say.

  2. Mmm...possibly...no I think it's some kind of collar.

  3. How wonderfully compelling! I can't choose a favorite, because I'm pretty sure they're my neighbors and I don't want to cause problems.

  4. How they treated their wives? Better ask How they treated men.)
    Women had a sometimes Gloriieus role, that of Priest or Goddess.)

  5. Do you know the date when all these artworks were first painted?

  6. I think all of these portraits came from caskets facings from a necropolis in Egypt around the 2nd or 3rd century AD. Here are some more..http://nomadicjoe.blogspot.com/2010/04/epitaph.html

    I have used Photoshop to clean them up digitally a little but hopefully I have just restored them to their original glory. Thanks for your comment.


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