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Funerary Portrait of a Man with a Cup (225–50 CE). Image Credit: Supplied

The Louvre Abu Dhabi has joined a global research project to scientifically scratch beneath the surface of Romano-Egyptian funerary portraits, which are considered to be some of the most spectacular artworks from the ancient world.

The Appear (Ancient Panel Paintings: Examination, Analysis and Research) project, launched in 2013 by the Getty Museum’s Department of Antiquities Conservation, aims to analyse and understand the methods and materials used to create these paintings. A total of 48 institutions are part of this project.

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Funerary portraits were painted on wooden boards and placed over the faces of mummies. The artefacts meld artistic methods and styles of the Greco-Roman period with the 2,000-year old Egyptian funerary tradition.

Louvre Abu Dhabi joined the Appear project in 2019 to analyse the artwork Funerary Portrait of a Man with a Cup (225–50 CE).

An X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometer has been used to detect and identify most of the chemical elements that lie on the painting’s surface. This data is then analysed to discover new information on funerary portraits, including how they were made, where they originated and who might have created them.

The project is led by a team of researchers and scientists from Louvre Abu Dhabi with the support of NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD).

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“Appear is one of Louvre Abu Dhabi’s most significant collaborations to date. Through this project, we seek to encourage scholarly studies, as well as contribute to international academic research,” said Dr Souraya Noujaim, Scientific, Curatorial and Collections Management Director at Louvre Abu Dhabi. “It is an exciting and inspiring opportunity for the UAE to be a part of this global initiative of exchanging discoveries on some of the world’s most renowned antique artefacts.”

Louvre Abu Dhabi is in the process of building its first laboratory of material analysis on artefacts. For APPEAR, the museum’s scientists, Elsa Bourguignon and Pablo Londero, collaborated with colleagues from NYUAD, Francesco Arneodo, Professor of Physics, and co-Director of the NYUAD Dhakira Center for Heritage Studies, Adriano di Giovanni, Research Scientist, and Rodrigo Torres Saavedra, Research Assistant.

Following the completion of the analysis of Funerary Portrait of a Man with a Cup, the results will be added to the APPEAR online database that is made available to other scientists and researchers. The first results of the findings will be published at the end of 2020.