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The female portrait mask

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  1. Introduction
  2. The first impression on seeing the female portrait mask
  3. The magnification of flawless beauty
  4. The female's eyes
  5. The female's distinguished social status
  6. The female's hair
  7. Placard of the portrait in the Walter's Museum
  8. Conclusion

Completed in the second century Common Era, The Female Portrait Mask was constructed under the longstanding tradition of funerary wax portrait masks used to commemorate the upper classes and their distinguished ancestry. The seventeen inch tall and eleven inch wide mask presents the portrait of a beautiful and youthful woman whose ethnicity is unknown. She wears elaborate jewelry which alludes to her social status and her face is cast in a strong contrast of dark and white light. Following the traditions of typical Fayum funerary art, the mask was most likely completed during the life of the female and celebrated in her home until her death.

[...] Because wax is impervious to moisture The Female Portrait Mask is well preserved and in good condition. Unfortunately, heavy traces of varnish or extra wax hinder the viewer's ability to see her garments. Thus, the viewer is unable to observe second century clothing trends. Although this evidence is missing, markers of high fashion within the time would have connected her to the historical setting in which she lived. Fortunately, the artist's display of intricately oval nested braids promotes the fashionable hairstyles of second century women. [...]


[...] Displaying the individual of a funerary portrait in an exuberant and youthful manner is standard to funerary tradition. Thus, the artist's use of shading and modeling allows him to successfully execute the functions of funerary art as he creates the illusion that the subject is still present and alive, despite being dead. The magnification of flawless beauty alludes that the idealized takes precedent to the realistic in the portrait. Evident in the female's complexion, the artist excludes any specific detail that would depict the female in an imperfect manner. [...]

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