Encaustic Materials and Methods - about the cover  

The dust jacket of the copy used to prepare the facsimile edition is lightly soiled with incidental chipping. These minor flaws pale, though, next to the conundrum posed by the dust jacket. The cover image, a Fayum portrait from the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York) appears distinctly different in Pratt & Fizell than in Museum documentation. What makes this particularly interesting, and more than a bit mysterious, is that the Metropolitan Museum of Art has confirmed to us that there were no color photographs of the work in their files until 1998, five decades after the publication of Encaustic Materials and Methods.

Pratt & Fizell call it Portrait Panel from the Fayyum 2nd Century AD (Head of Girl) but it is presently identified as Portrait of A Young Woman with A Gilded Wreath, dated c. AD 120-140. It was acquired in 1909 by the Museum's Rogers Fund as accession number 09.181.7.

The differences between the painting as documented by the Museum and as it appears in Encaustic: Materials and Methods may at first seem subtle, but become more readily apparent on closer study. Most notable is that the work appears on the book cover as “framed” while the Museum shows it unframed. Specifically, the image has been cropped – the full image clearly shows unpainted wood at the sides and top of the image, with a very narrow strip unpainted at the bottom.

“This panel was not painted,” the Museum's commentary on the work explains, “in the areas where the mummy wrappings have would covered the edges.” On the book cover all of the bare panel on the left and most on the right sides remains, but none at the top curve where the “frame” now follows the limits of the painted background, lowering the top of the panel by approximately 2 cm. The bottom edge of the painting is also elevated by the cropping by approximately 3 cm.

So, two quite different versions of the same image. Where did Pratt & Fizell obtain their version? Were they responsible for its alteration? Or did it come to them in that form? The possibility of resolving this seems now very remote, but you can click the link below to see the two side-by-side.

Click here for the comparison...

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