In 1887, the British archaeologist Flinders Petrie started excavations at Hawara.
He discovered a Roman necropolis which yielded 81 portrait mummies in the first year of excavation.
He set off to inspect them some days later, but arrived too late, as the finders had used the painted plaques for firewood during the three previous cold desert nights.
Fouquet acquired the remaining two of what had originally been fifty portraits.
The Italian explorer Pietro della Valle, on a visit to Saqqara-Memphis in 1615, was the first European to discover and describe mummy portraits.
He transported some mummies with portraits to Europe, which are now in the Albertinum (Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden).
Some of them were long considered portraits of the family of the Theban Archon Pollios Soter, a historical character known from written sources, but this has turned out to be incorrect.While painted cartonnage mummy cases date back to pharaonic times, the Faiyum mummy portraits were an innovation dating to the Coptic period at the time of the Roman occupation of Egypt.The portraits date to the Imperial Roman era, from the late 1st century BC or the early 1st century AD onwards.Once again, a long period elapsed before more mummy portraits came to light.In 1887, Daniel Marie Fouquet heard of the discovery of numerous portrait mummies in a cave.