The Malibu Painter, who probably painted this, was not active in California’s surf culture, but in Egypt around the time the first Christians started showing up. They were still making mummies, but they were part of the Roman Empire.
Archaeologists believe portraits like these were painted while the subjects were alive, displayed in their homes, then slipped into the wrappings of their mummified bodies after their death. They don’t know the name of the painters, but think they can identify this artist by his (or her) style. It was done in encaustic on wood – paint mixed with hot beeswax.
The image is part of the Getty Museum’s Open Content Program.