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Painting with Beeswax: Funerary Portraits from Roman Egypt

In the Harvard Art Museums' presentation and conversation on Thursday, Nov. 3, hear how ancient artists from Roman-period Egypt created portraits on wooden panels to be placed on mummified bodies. The main technique used for these portraits was encaustic (wax) painting. These paintings can now be seen in museum collections around the world. Contemporary encaustic artist Francisco Benitez and conservator of paintings Kate Smith will employ their expertise to bring new understanding to these ancient objects and highlight the skills of the painters who made them 2,000 years ago.

Francisco Benitez is a professional artist as well as a student, and teacher, of ancient painting techniques. In workshops, he shares his research on using ancient, and modern, tools to paint with beeswax and to experiment with the Greek four-color palette. Kate Smith—with curatorial and analytical science colleagues—has spent nearly a decade studying the materials and techniques used in the production of the ancient Egyptian funerary portraits in the Harvard Art Museums collections and is the head of paintings lab at the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies.

The lecture will take place in Menschel Hall in the Lower Level. Doors will open at 5:30 p.m. Following the lecture, guests are invited to visit the exhibition on Level 3. Admission is free, but seating is limited and reservations are required. Reservations may be arranged by clicking on the event on this form beginning on Monday, Oct. 24, after 10 a.m. Limited complimentary parking is available in the Broadway Garage at 7 Felton Street. Please review the museums' general visitor policies, including details on COVID-related precautions. The Harvard Art Museums are committed to accessibility for all visitors. For anyone requiring accessibility accommodations for their programs, please contact the museums at at least 48 hours in advance.


32 Quincy Street, Cambridge MA, 02138

Harvard Square

Date & Time

  • Thu Nov 3, 2022

    • 10:00pm - 11:30pm


  • Historical
  • Exhibit
  • Lectures / Talks
  • Visual Art