I am already registered - Login:

Don't have an account yet?

Click here to register

Lot 1011 - A206 Decorative Arts - Thursday, 21. September 2023, 10.00 AM


Hawara, Egypt, Trajan Period, beginning of the 2nd century A.D.
Wooden panel, polychrome painted using the encaustic technique and mounted on a later wooden panel. Portrait of a distinguished young lady facing right. Clearly outlined facial features. The hair is coiled in the front and coiffed into a chignon at the top, which is held in place by a hairpin. Her clothing features reddish and brown tones. She is wearing pearl-, gold- and emerald jewelry. In a later frame.
Inner dimensions 38 × 23.5 cm.

- Excavation by Flinders Petrie in Hawara, Egypt, 1888.
- Sotheby's London, Martyn Kennard Collection of Egyptian Antiquities, 1912, Lot No. 542 (with ill.).
- Collection Dr. Andreas Ruesch, Zurich.
- Galerie Fischer Auktionen, Lucerne, 1936, Lot No. 175 (with ill.).
- Collection Dr. J. Mäder, St. Gallen, acquired at the above auction.
- By inheritance to his partner. In her private collection until her death in the early 1990s.
- By inheritance in the present Swiss private collection.

- Flinders Petrie, "Hawara," p. 44, pl. 11 (L).
- Burlington Fine Arts Club, "The Art of Ancient Egypt," London, 1895, p. 34, No. 4.
- Burlington Magazine, Vol. 37, London, 1920, p. 209.
- Fischer Gallery catalog, "Collection A. Ruesch Zurich", Lucerne 1-2/9, 1936, p. 19, Lot No. 175, ill. 18.
- Prof. Klaus Parlasca, Repertorio D'Arte Dell'Egitto Greco-Romano, Serie B, Vol. I, Milan, 1966, p. 57, No. 112, ill. 2.

The mummy portrait on offer has remained in the same family by succession since it was auctioned off in Lucerne in 1936. Thanks to the abundant literature available, its provenance can be traced back to the excavation site in 1888 near Hawara. The discovery of the mummy portrait on offer goes back to Sir William Matthew Flinders Petrie (1853-1942), himself a pioneer of Egyptology and Holder of the first Chair of Egyptology at University College London. After the mummy portrait on offer arrived in Switzerland via English art dealers, it became the property of Dr. Andreas Ruesch (1882-1929), whose prestigious collection of antiques was auctioned off by the Fischer Auction House in Lucerne in 1936. The mummy portrait was ultimately purchased by Dr. Julius Maeder from Sankt Gallen, in whose family the portrait has remained ever since. Prof. Klaus Parlasca, one of the most renowned experts on mummy portraits, published the portrait on offer in his 1966 compendium (under No. 112) and qualifies the portrait as a "very fine and excellently preserved" specimen. Parlasca also mentions that the portrait on offer was found during Petrie's excavation, together with another portrait, which is in the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. That one, like the portrait on offer, belonged to the collector Martyn Kennard and was sold at auction in London in 1912 (Cf. ROM Toronto, listed there under Inv. No. 918.20.1).

Mummy portraits from Faiyum form a body of naturalistic-veristic painted portraits on wooden panels found on mummies in the region of Faiyum. Usually, the panels are dated to the middle of the 1st to the middle of the 3rd century A.D. Accordingly, they are stylistically from the Roman period, but were found in Egypt and painted in the tradition of Ancient Greek naturalism. Despite the difficulties of contextualization, these true-to-life portraits still exert a universal appeal today because of their haunting quality. According to E. Doxiadis, "by a miracle of painting, their faces have captured life itself. The viewer is brought into a direct connection with the person depicted, who is as if in limbo, in a twilight zone between life and death" (translated from: The Mysterious Faiyum Portraits, Faces from Ancient Egypt, p. 12).

The mummy portrait on offer was executed using the encaustic technique, an ancient form of painting that involves a heated wax medium to which pigments have been added. The molten mix is then applied to the surface to be painted. Such mummy portraits represent important material for researchers studying Roman portrait painting in the Mediterranean area. The portraits provide general information about links between Roman-Egyptian funeral traditions, as well as the style and fashion trends of the upper classes in the 1st to 3rd centuries A.D. It remains largely unclear how exactly the mummy portraits were used in the veneration of the dead. One discovery suggests that they were hung in frames in houses until they were eventually lain on top of the mummy. It has also been suggested that they were painted shortly before death and carried through the city during the funeral procession (ekphora) to celebrate the deceased, before being placed in the burial chamber.

CHF 20 000 / 30 000 | (€ 20 620 / 30 930)

Sold for CHF 450 000 (including buyer’s premium)
All information is subject to change.