Art, Art History and Design, School of


First Advisor

Michael Hoff

Second Advisor

Effie Athanassopoulos

Third Advisor

Aaron Holz

Date of this Version

Spring 4-2021

Document Type



Sather, Margaret C.. "The Use of Egyptian Blue in Funerary Paintings from Roman Egypt." Master's thesis, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 2021.


A thesis submitted to the Faculty of the Graduate College at the University of Nebraska in partial fulfillment of requirements for the degree of Master of Arts, Major: Art History, under the supervision of Professor Michael C. Hoff. Lincoln, Nebraska: April, 2021.

Copyright © 2021 Margaret C. Sather


This paper explores the use of the synthesized pigment Egyptian blue in the encaustic and tempera funerary portraits of Graeco-Roman ruled Egypt in the 1st-3rd centuries CE. Recent developments in non-destructive imaging analysis technology have aided research institutions and museums in detecting the presence of this pigment. New questions have arisen based on these findings of Egyptian blue in the depiction of flesh and hair of these subjects, particularly because blue is so rarely used as a standalone pigment in works of this category. These analyses have challenged assumptions that Egyptian blue was a rare and valuable pigment during the Roman era, as well as thoughts that the encaustic funerary portrait had its origins in the Greek tetrachromatic color scheme. In this paper, I will investigate these hypotheses, as well as the possibility that the inclusion of Egyptian blue in flesh and hair of deceased subjects aided them in their journey to the afterlife, citing funerary and mythological beliefs of Greeks and Egyptians alike.

Advisor: Michael Hoff