Just Because: First-Century Portrait of a Woman (with Perfume!)

Portrait of a Woman. Er-Rubayat, ca. 100-120 A.D.
Portrait of a Woman. Er-Rubayat, ca. 100-120 A.D.

The British Museum describes this small mummy-portrait as “cheerful” if “rather amateurish.” It also notes her jewelry—the snake bracelet, the dangling earrings, the layered necklaces—and, last but not least, the small bottle she clasps:

“In her hand she holds a small unguentarium, or bottle for scented oils, which were often placed in graves as offerings to the dead. Here, perhaps, it is simply intended to represent a bottle of her favorite perfume.”

Indeed. If you were an ancient Egyptian, wouldn’t you want to take your favorite fragrances into the afterlife with you? I would.

Source: Paul Roberts, Mummy Portraits of Roman Egypt. London, The British Museum, 2008.