On July 11, the highlight of the Cobb’s auction in Peterborough, N.H. was a wood panel of Egyptian portrait. The description of lot 94 says:
Sarcophagus Painting of Fayum, painting on gesso on wood panel, 13 1/8″ x 7 5/8″ with edge losses and upper corners cut. Painting depicts a woman wearing earrings and 2 necklaces over a pull over blouse, some cracks and paint chipping. Appears to be from the Roman 1st century A.D., period from Egypt . These are known as “Fayum,” portraits of a deceased upper class person. Provenance: A Peterborough , NH estate originally purchased in New York in the 1960’s. Estimate $30,000-50,000
I am not sure how sarcophagus is related to the portrait. Roman Period mummy portraits were painted on wooden panels that were slipped into the mummy wrappings over the face of the deceased. Often the artists used melted wax as a medium, building up thick layers of pigment and highlighting the facial features with touches of white. Although painted in the naturalistic tradition of the Greco-Roman world, these images are idealized representations of the deceased, and they were used in a traditional Egyptian funerary context.
But the vague description didn’t deter bidders’ enthusiam. The lot was accompanied by a letter verifying the purchase because the original receipt had not been located at the time of the auction. The portrait went to a London dealer buying for a client for $143,750 who won against 8 other phone bidders.