The so-called “Fayum portraits”, of the Roman Age, were placed on the mummy over the face and secured using bandages. Their symbolic value is that of a funerary mask of the pharaonic era, or rather a substitute-protection for the face, while the style and production technique are typically Roman. It takes the form of a wooden board painted with tempera or encaustic which reproduce, in a naturalistic way, the face of the deceased. Their definition derives from the fact that the first specimens were discovered in large quantities in the area of Fayum, although they have also been found in other necropolises of Middle and Upper Egypt.
This specimen depicts a young man looking slightly to the right. He wears a white robe with wide purple clavi and a cloak draped over his left shoulder. The style of the portrait, the facial features and the characteristic hairstyle enable it to be dated from the first quarter of the fourth century A.D.
The portrait, previously part of the Gregor Stroganoff Collection, was part of the collection bequeathed to the Vatican Museums by Federico Zeri in 1999.