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These are the protagonists of the novel Three Seasons on the Nile: the first on the left is the portrait used to imagine the physician Suetonius. In reality, he is a stranger in his forties with a short beard and a distinct appearance. He might be a scribe or perhaps an official from a good family; anyway, I don’t have any difficulty in visualizing him as a doctor. The portrait is in the Louvre.
The central figure is that of a young woman from a wealthy or noble family; the background of the portrait was originally gilded, underlining the noble status of the young woman. She is portrayed while looking at the viewer with a serious expression, her large eyes accentuated by long lashes made with galena-based dye, combed with loose curls of which some fall on her neck. Her tunic, originally dark red, and her face, well-lit, show a charming youth accentuated by a gold wreath and jewels. This portrait, which dates back to around 100 AD, was the inspiration for Cecilia, the wife of the physician Suetonius.

[Artifacts n. 2 and 3 were examined in the M.E.T., N.Y., for the novel “Three Seasons on the Nile”. We would like to thank the curators and tour guides of the Metropolitan Museum for their helpfulness].

On the right is the portrait of a young man with a slightly disordered beard and hair, maybe thirty years old, who lived around 150 AD. He provided me with the subject for Onorazio, the assistant of the physician Suetonius.

The paintings, on a wooden panel, come from El Fayum (Egypt). They were displayed on the head of mummies to remind us of what these people looked like in life. The portraits are made with the encaustic technique, in which the colors, melted in wax, were applied to a surface while still hot. By examining the painting technique, it is clear that the authors were skilled professional portrait painters.

Claudio Rossi © 2019. All rights reserved.