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Art and Science of Roman-Egyptian Mummy Portraits

Mummy Exhibit“Paint the Eyes Softer: Mummy Portraits from Roman Egypt” opens at the Block Museum of Art Jan. 13 and continues through April 22.

The exhibition brings to Northwestern a series of mummy portraits produced in Egypt during the Roman period, a complete intact portrait mummy and other archeological finds from the Fayum region.

The groundbreaking installation, a joint project of Northwestern’s Block Museum of Art and the McCormick School of Engineering, is co-curated by Marc Walton, research professor of materials science and engineering at McCormick and senior scientist at NU-ACCESS; Taco Terpstra, assistant professor of classics and history in Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences; and Essi Rönkkö, Block Museum curatorial associate.

Northwestern students enrolled in an advanced undergraduate seminar in fall 2017 worked with Terpstra and Walton to conduct hands-on work in a laboratory environment collecting scientific data on the mummy portraits and the Hibbard portrait mummy. Their research results are summarized in the exhibition and provide new insights into the economic, historical and social context for art-making in the Fayum region and Roman Egypt.

Press Releases

What's inside the mummy?

Visual Assets

Media Relations Contacts

Megan Fellman
Science and Engineering Editor
Phone: 847-491-3115
Email Megan

Stephanie Kulke
Arts Editor
Phone: 847-491-4819
Email Stephanie

Project Experts

Stuart R. Stock (leader of Argonne synchrotron experiment and CT scan)
Research professor of cell and molecular biology
Feinberg School of Medicine
Northwestern University

Marc Walton (materials science instructor for the class)
Research professor of materials science and engineering
McCormick School of Engineering
Northwestern University

Taco Terpstra (classics and humanities instructor for the class)
Assistant professor of classics and history
Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences
Northwestern University

Essi Rönkkö
Curatorial associate for special projects
Block Museum of Art
Northwestern University

Lisa Corrin
Ellen Philips Katz Director
Block Museum of Art
Northwestern University

Rachel C. Sabino
Associate conservator, objects conservation department
The Art Institute of Chicago

Project Partners

The exhibition is organized by the Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University in collaboration with the McCormick School of Engineering, Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and Feinberg School of Medicine.

Exhibition support for “Paint the Eyes Softer” is provided by the Barry and Mary Ann MacLean Fund for Art and Engineering, the Alumnae Continuing Education program funds of The Alumnae of Northwestern University, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities. Additional support is provided by Block Museum Science and Technology Fund, Alsdorf Gallery at the Block Museum Fund and the Mary and Leigh Block Endowment. Exhibition sound design is thanks to Stephan Moore and students in the Sound Cultures seminar, Northwestern School of Communication.

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