These proceedings mark the end of the first four years of an international collaboration on the study of funerary Citation: Panel. Painting support made from various woods, including lime, sycomore fig, and cedar of Lebanon, among others. The shape of the upper portion of mummy portrait panels may indicate the cemetery in which the mummy was buried: stepped panels are associated with Antinoöpolis, round-topped panels with Hawara, and angled panels with er-Rubayat. painting from Roman Egypt, known as APPEAR: Ancient Panel Painting, Examination, Analysis and Research. The APPEAR initiative was developed to create a platform for expanding our understanding of the materials and technology used to produce works of art, especially mummy portraits, painted in the first through third centuries AD during the Roman occupation of Egypt. The papers in this publication are the result of a conference held at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Villa, Malibu, on May 17 and 18, 2018; it was there that the results stemming from the APPEAR project were first shared. The Getty-organized event brought together more than one hundred attendees to hear presentations by twenty-one project participants on the current and ongoing technical research of ancient painting from Roman Egypt. Over the two-day conference, twelve papers, six lightning talks / posters, and a keynote lecture addressed the topics that have developed through or contributed to the APPEAR project. The speakers—representing five countries and nineteen museums, with backgrounds in conservation, science, Egyptology, classics, and art history—presented new research on the history, Citation: Provenance. The ownership history of an artifact., materials, methods, technical imaging, and analysis of ancient painted artifacts.
The APPEAR project was established in 2013 with seven seed institutions; at the time of this publication the project has flourished, expanding to forty-seven collaborating museums from the United States and Europe. Partner institutions participate by examining, analyzing, and researching the history, materials, methods, and technology of the artworks within their collections and contributing the results to a database that is used as a platform for study, investigation, and comparison. This collective data broadens the customary focused studies into a larger corpus of information, facilitating the identification of trends, enabling comparisons, and shedding new light on artistic practice, materials, and techniques. Additionally, as an outcome of the project’s expansion, a community has developed in which participants are able to reach out to other institutions and colleagues, exchange information, gain inspiration, and, in several instances, provide guidance and support to those who may not have the same resources or expertise. This collegial outreach has been a very special result of the project’s cooperative nature and success.
Portrait paintings of the deceased, created on wooden panels or Citation: Linen (flax). A textile derived from the flax fiber, commonly used in but not originally native to Egypt, dating back to the Neolithic period (about 4000 BC). Two types of flax were cultivated in predynastic Egypt: Linum bienne (synonym Linum angustifolium) and Linum usitatissimum. To produce linen thread, flax was dried, retted (soaked), beaten to separate the bast fibers from the stems, spliced, and spun. Although rarely done, linen thread could then be dyed (using ochre or organic colorants) before being woven into cloth. Women, men, and children were involved in linen production, but weaving is most closely associated with women. Linen cloth was very valuable and sometimes used as currency. Egyptian mummies were wrapped in linen because it symbolized wealth, light, and purity. Citation: Shroud. A cloth used to cover or protect another object. The term is most often used to refer to a cloth that covers or envelops a corpse. Many mummy shrouds were painted before being placed over the mummy’s head or enveloping the entire body. and placed in front of the face of mummified bodies, evolved from a 2,000-year-old Pharaonic funerary tradition, replacing the stylized three-dimensional mummy mask with a two-dimensional, personalized Greco-Roman portrait. Although the APPEAR collaboration began with a focus on these well-known and very popular mummy portraits, the project has expanded to include other painted artifacts in the Romano-Egyptian tradition. The study now includes painted textile shrouds, wooden framed panels, doors, shields, and Citation: Stucco. A fine plaster made of either gypsum or calcite that is used for coating surfaces or that is molded into decorative shapes. The mixture is applied wet and shaped/molded; it is typically painted after drying. Funerary masks made of stucco are found in Egypt from the First Dynasty to the first century AD. mummy masks. Such diversity of painted artifacts offers a broader exploration into the ancient artists’ use and sourcing of materials as well as shared practices.
The APPEAR conference opened with a brief overview of recent research on mummy portraits. Twenty-three years have passed since the exhibition Ancient Faces: Mummy Portraits from Roman Egypt opened at the British Museum. The 1990s also saw the publication of a cluster of significant research projects on mummy portraits, with lively debate on the chronological development of this regional genre of ancient painting and on how the paintings were commissioned and used. How do we see the painted faces of Roman Egypt today?
Major advances in imaging and scientific analysis have allowed significant progress in our understanding of how mummy portraits were made, especially those painted on wooden panels. Inevitably this has led to a more complex view of the range of choices open to the painters of Roman Egypt. Moreover, some long-established scholarly “certainties” are now dissolving. For example, an apparently clear and widely accepted division between artists painting in Citation: Encaustic. A wax-based painting technique. From the Greek word enkaustikos (“burned in”), the term in its most literal sense refers to the use of molten beeswax combined with pigments; once solidified, the paint can be further manipulated by the use of heated tools. The term is often used in a more general sense to describe any painting technique in which wax is the major component of the medium. and those working in Citation: Tempera. In the context of ancient art, this term generally refers to a fast-drying, water-miscible painting medium such as animal glue or plant gum. The term tempera originates from the Latin temperare (“combining, blending”). is now questioned; rather, painters seem to have used a variety of media for specific purposes within a single portrait, and the visibly differing results more likely reflect the choice of tool kit used to work the painted surface rather than the preference for a particular medium.
Some of the observations made in the 1990s still hold true: the painters’ workshops were geographically organized by settlement and associated cemetery, and perceived differences in the quality of work reflect local usage rather than a chronologically sensitive decline. In the 1990s the subjects of mummy portraits were identified as the elite populations of the small towns of Egypt; these individuals negotiated an improvement in their status with the ruling Roman authorities by claiming a Greek historical identity. Recent epigraphic research confirms that this group also enjoyed exceptional legal privileges, and field survey has thrown remarkable light on some of the settlements in which they lived.
Through improved scientific analysis and forensic methodologies, major developments in the detection and interpretation of the materials used to create ancient paintings are constantly evolving. These advancements are a direct result of more sensitive and sophisticated analytical instrumentation that requires little or no sampling to obtain results. Technical imaging also plays a significant role in the characterization of materials, further guiding and corroborating scientific analysis nondestructively.
A common denominator among ancient panel paintings is that they have been produced on wooden substrates. Thus, the development of a methodology for wood identification was seminal in understanding funerary portraits and their technology, and as a consequence of the British Museum’s exhibition in 1997, a systematic scientific research program commenced to identify the woods selected for the mummy portrait panels. Given the extensive use of local Egyptian woods in earlier chronological periods for coffins and other funerary artifacts, it was a revelation to find, as early as 1996, that the majority of mummy portraits was constructed on southern European Tilia europaea (lime/linden) wood, which is not—and has never been—native to Egypt. For high-status coffins and artifacts in previous periods, Cedrus libani (cedar of Lebanon) wood was imported, but the preferential selection of Tilia europaea was an innovation.
The APPEAR project has enabled this research to expand, with many participating institutions permitting tiny samples of their wooden panels for incorporation into this scientific research program. Advances in sampling techniques and methodology have contributed greatly to the success of the research. High-resolution scanning electron microscopy (SEM), offering magnification up to an extraordinary 300,000x, has allowed sample sizes to be reduced considerably. Prior to the pioneering application of both variable pressure SEM and field emission SEM to routinely identify archaeological and historical wood, it was usual to seek cubic wood samples of 1 to 2 centimeters in size, principally because wood thin sections had to be made for examination in transmitted light under the optical microscope. Although this technique still remains the preferred method for modern reference wood specimens, SEM has revolutionized wood identification of the mummy portraits, for which sample size is a crucial factor.
In both the pre-APPEAR and the APPEAR phases of systematic scientific identification of mummy portrait woods (now extended to include wooden artifacts from the same period), new results have emerged constantly. As highlighted in this publication, many more species have emerged over the past twenty-four years of research compared with what was known in 1996. One of the major objectives now and in the immediate future is to examine the results in the context of the other studies exemplified in this volume and by APPEAR collaborators, in order to evaluate whether it is possible to pinpoint discrete centers of production of mummy portraits or even workshops; this can be established by comparing distinctive preferences for a particular type of wood, method of painting, style, and execution.
The development of the APPEAR database and website will give scholars across the world a hitherto unavailable, evidence-based view of the making of mummy portraits and related funerary artifacts. The anonymous painters of these rare colored images of the people of Roman Egypt are now beginning to come into a focus unreachable twenty-four years ago.
APPEAR Conference Overview
The papers summarized here are not in any particular order; rather, they are grouped by similarity of subject addressed.
The APPEAR conference began with a fundamental topic in the study of funerary portraits by the J. Paul Getty Museum: the exploration of provenance, the history of collecting, and the dealer market in the twentieth century. The paper, included in this volume, emphasizes the value of preserving historical documentation such as dealer notes, stamps, seals, and markings—sometimes found on the backs of these artifacts and a key to understanding their collection history. This information not only sheds light on a portrait’s journey after discovery but also can identify other works from the same findspot as well as provide information on past restoration campaigns. (See Ch. 11)
A study from the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest, provides a rare glimpse into the well-documented history of five mummy portraits as well as the breadth of new information and rediscovery possible through collaborative technical investigations. (See Ch. 12) A unique approach to painted portraiture—the process of mapping facial features—is addressed by the Ashmolean Museum, Northwestern University, and the Cranfield Forensic Institute. Spatial calculations can be used to better understand the conception of painted portraiture and, through comparative data, potentially identify groups possibly executed by the same hand. This issue raises the question of whether a formula was used to design the mummy portraits. (See Ch. 10)
Several papers explore different types of painted artifacts—those that complement current studies by expanding and enhancing our understanding of artistic practice beyond the scope of mummy portraits. This merging path of research is exemplified by the examination of two unique artifacts. The Heron panel from the Rhode Island School of Design Museum is presented as a case study. Working with colleagues from Rhode Island Hospital and Brown University, the authors analyze the construction and iconography of this special artifact and compare it with other framed, or once framed, panels as well as with later icon paintings. (See Ch. 9) The Dura-Europos shields at Yale University Art Gallery reveal the far-reaching technology of panel painting during the Roman period and underscore the similarities and differences between these excavated artifacts, discovered more than 700 miles away from Egypt. (See Ch. 16)
Almost all of the papers here highlight the mission of APPEAR by illustrating the benefits of collaboration and the special partnerships that have developed as a result of the project. This is most evident in the collective study of two museums: the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna and the Museum of Fine Arts, Budapest. Technical support, guidance, and expertise have been shared in an effort to identify the materials and methods used for mummy portraits housed in both collections. (See Ch. 15) The discovery of mysterious painted features on three portraits, one each in the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, and the J. Paul Getty Museum, form an unexpected connection centered on a unique discovery. These features, visualized only through technical imaging, have painted details invisible to the naked eye and raise enigmatic questions about their composition and purpose. (See Ch. 8) A unique study and comparison of an object with questionable authenticity, the portrait of Sarap[i]on from the Michael C. Carlos Museum, in collaboration with the University of Memphis, draws from similar corroborative entries in the database and further supports an in-depth exploration of construction, function, and history in order to suggest the true identity of a sitter. (See Ch. 13) On a broader scope, the characterization by APPEAR partners of wood species in eight papers and of Citation: Binding media. Organic materials that hold pigments together, enabling them to be applied as a cohesive film. Ancient binding media are based on natural materials, including wax, plant gums, and proteins, such as animal glues. The physical properties of the medium strongly influence the handling and visual characteristics of the paint. in three further showcases the benefits of collaboration. In addition to supporting institutions that lack analytical resources or expertise, these partnerships yield results that provide valuable contributions to the database, expanding current collective scholarship.
The conference focused heavily on the topic of artists’ materials and the identification of wood, Citation: Pigment. A colorant either derived from natural sources—mineral, plant, or insect—or produced synthetically. Typically, pigments are crushed into a fine powder and mixed with a binder, resulting in a suspension that becomes insoluble when dry; a dye produces a lake pigment when attached to an inorganic substrate or mordant., and binding media, as well as on the state-of-the-art, innovative, and nondestructive imaging methods now used to identify them. Papers by the British Museum draw on many years of specialist scientific expertise to summarize the range of wood species that were used for more than 180 panels and to chart the development of the leading procedure for multispectral imaging and its application to the study of mummy portraits. (See Ch. 2 and Ch. 6) A focused examination of one well-provenanced collection of mummy portraits from the Roman cemeteries at Tebtunis, Citation: Fayum (Faiyum, El Faiyûm, Al-Fayoum, Fayyum). A fertile desert basin immediately to the west of the Nile River, south of Cairo. Roman mummies were discovered there in several ancient cemeteries and archaeological sites, including Hawara and er-Rubayat. The Fayum was a very prosperous region and a vibrant cultural center during the Greco-Roman and Roman periods., now at the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology, considers the materials and techniques that characterize one workshop—an exciting and model study; the work was aided by scholars at Northwestern University and the British Museum. (See Ch. 14)
The following papers explore pigments as well as three colorants that were manufactured in the ancient world. One study by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and the Walters Art Museum is on the use and identification of the organic dye Citation: Madder. A dyestuff derived from the root of the madder plant (Rubia tinctorum), which is native to the eastern Mediterranean and Persia. Likely introduced to Egypt by the Greeks or Romans, madder was used throughout antiquity for coloring textiles and as a pigment. Chemical name: Alizarin (1,2-dihydroxyanthraquinone), Purpurin (1,2,4-trihydroxyanthraquinone). The ubiquitous appearance of this bright pink colorant on panel paintings underscores the importance of its production in antiquity. (See Ch. 3) The beloved Citation: Egyptian blue (cuprorivaite). A pigment that was manufactured and used by Egyptians possibly as early as 3100 BC. Considered to be the first synthetic pigment, Egyptian blue was made by mixing a calcium and copper compound with silica/quartz and a flux, heating the mixture to a very high temperature (900°C), and then grinding the glassy product to a powder. Chemical formula: Calcium copper silicate, CaCuSi4O10 or CaOCuO(SiO2)4, known as one of the oldest manufactured pigments in history, was created to reproduce a color that was not readily available in nature. Its nontraditional use and the geographic centers of its production are reported by the Cantor Art Center. (See Ch. 5) Through innovative technical imaging methods, the Brooklyn Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art examine the lesser-known blue dye Citation: Indigo. A natural blue dye derived from the plant Indigofera tinctoria and related species growing in the Mediterranean, India, and Asia, among other locations. It is believed that originally the dye woad (Isatis tinctoria), rather than indigo, was used in antiquity. Chemical formula: C16H10N2O2, also used to produce green (mixed with a yellow pigment) as well as purple (mixed with madder) and black (pure indigo). The identification of indigo illustrates the extensive and creative uses of artists’ materials that had previously gone unnoticed in the study of ancient pigments. (See Ch. 7) Equally significant is the characterization of green pigments, investigated by the Kelsey Museum, as both natural and manufactured sources. Utilizing the APPEAR database, a comparison is made between painted artifacts from different time periods, revealing the lengths to which artists went to produce paintings with green. (See Ch. 4)
Finally, the extremely complex issue of binding media is addressed by the Getty Conservation Institute, the Ny Carlsburg Glyptotek, and the Art Institute of Chicago. Two papers are collaborations that examine the organic binding materials used for ancient paintings, to characterize their composition and identify new mixtures. (See Ch. 17 and Ch. 18) A third study on binding media proposes new terminology to describe the information we are gathering today and confronts the discussions still to evolve in the definition of the terms and techniques associated with ancient materials and technology. (See Ch. 1)
Within these proceedings, eighteen contributions to the APPEAR conference focus on the identity, source, use, and function of the ancient artists’ painting methods. Additionally, the exploration of how these artifacts were acquired, manufactured, imported, identified, and reused has laid a foundation for ongoing collective studies. This collaborative working approach reveals the broad scope of information possible in the study of ancient painting. Questions still to be answered as well as new directions of research and technological advances will continue to make the APPEAR project a valuable scholarly resource and a conduit for the exchange of future discoveries in the study of ancient art.