This exhibition will present Roman Egyptian mummy portraits and related materials in the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, one of the largest collections of such paintings originating from a single site in the world. The exhibition will foreground innovative techniques for the scientific study of objects and reveal to the public how partnerships between art historians, archaeologists, and material scientists can provide new revelations about these ancient artworks.

The paintings have been the focus of a systematic study conducted by NU-ACCESS (Northwestern University/Art Institute of Chicago Center for Scientific Studies in the Arts) and UC Berkeley using a variety of imaging techniques. The Tebtunis materials will be complemented by a mummy of a young girl from the collection of Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary on the Northwestern University campus. This complete mummy with a portrait embedded in its wrappings comes from the nearby site of Hawara, is contemporary to the Berkeley objects, and will provide valuable context to the exhibition.

Paint the Eyes Softer will be co-curated by Marc Walton, Research Professor of Materials Science and Engineering at Northwestern and Senior Scientist of NU-ACCESS; Taco Terpstra, Northwestern Assistant Professor of Classics and History; and Essi Rönkkö, Block Museum Curatorial Associate. During the 2017 fall quarter, the guest curators will teach an advanced undergraduate seminar focusing on this objects that will combine materials science, archaeology, and museum studies. Students will gain insight into and actively contribute to the exhibition layout and interpretation, including collaborating on the exhibition’s didactic materials. They will also share their research through a public program during the exhibition’s run.