Height 45 cm
Width 41 cm (with frame)
The small mosaic depicts a realistic portrait of a young man. He has an oval face, a pronounced jaw, a big and slightly curved nose, regular lips, brown eyes with a pair of thick and dark eyebrows. His hair is short and black with small bangs; the ears are slightly away from the face. He is displayed against a plain background enclosed in a black frame.
Other mosaics found in the towns around Mt. Vesuvius depict both male and female figures. However, in this particular case, the tidy representation suggests that this is a portrait of a specific individual rather than a generic stock figure.
This mosaic may have originally lain as flooring and may have been readapted in antiquity, because of its good quality, to the smaller size and format. This hypothesis is conjectural, although the frame that surrounds the youth strongly suggests it.
The youth gazes out of the frame, engaging the viewer directly and emotionally. In format, the mosaic portrait recalls the famous funerary portraits that were found in the Fayum region in Egypt. Beginning in the early imperial period, these were painted on wood panels and wrapped into mummies. It is possible that some of the individuals depicted in these portraits were originally from Campania, the area around Vesuvius, who may have exported the “imperial fashion” to its provinces. This comparison would leave open the hypothesis that this portrait was recovered in a funerary setting.
Maria Cristina Recco