PUSHKIN MUSEUM, Fayum Portraits Room 3

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English / USA Language: English / USA

One of the most interesting exhibitions in the Pushkin Museum is the comprehensive section dedicated to ancient Egypt. Most of the objects, including mummies, vases and statues, have been on display since the museum opened in 1912 and come from Vladimir Golenishchev's collection. His was one of the best private collections of Egyptian art in the world, and was acquired by the museum in 1909.

The highlight of the exhibition are the Fayum Portraits: a series of 16 funeral portraits, mostly painted on wooden boards, that covered the faces of some mummies. The name comes from the Egyptian town of Fayum, where most of the works are from. The importance of these portraits lies not only in their marked realism, but also in the fact that they are among the best-preserved examples of ancient painting.

These portraits of rare beauty were placed on mummies between the 100 and 300 AD, when Egypt was under Roman rule. As you can see, they are almost photographic and mainly portray young people and children. Scientific studies have shown that the age of the mummified bodies matches that of the corresponding portraits, highlighting the low life expectancy at that time. However, the paintings do not completely depict the subjects as they really were. Detailed analyses have shown that, despite the variety of hairstyles and beards, there are some "standard profiles". Another interesting fact is that all the subjects belonged to the ruling class; given the cost of such precious funeral honors, they were soldiers, religious dignitaries and rich merchants.

Historians were able to date the portraits from the hairstyles. In Roman times, fashions and trends were heavily influenced by sculptures of the imperial family. So, the painted planks were dated according to the fashionable hairstyle at the time.



Interesting fact: Many people wonder how the ancient Egyptians built the Pyramids. You'll find an answer in this museum. Here, you can see the famous Moscow Papyrus, which is nothing more than a sophisticated mathematical text. Among the twenty-five mathematical problems that it solves is the calculation of the volume of a truncated pyramid!

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