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Ancient Art

Baptistery wall painting: Woman at the Well

ca. A.D. 232

Paint on plaster

99 × 61 cm (39 × 24 in.)
Yale-French Excavations at Dura-Europos
The woman in this image leans forward, her arms stretched downward, holding a thick black rope that hangs into a well. The painting often is associated with the encounter between Christ (not shown) and a woman from Samaria described in the Gospel of John. Other scholars have identified it as an Annunciation scene, in which case it would be the earliest known representation of the Virgin Mary. In either case, the water drawn from the well alludes to the baptismal water that conveyed truth and salvation to members of the Durene congregation.
Excavated in Dura-Europos, Syria
On view
Syrian, Dura-Europos
Roman (3rd century A.D.)

Excavated by the Yale-French Excavations at Dura-Europos (block M8, Christian Building), present-day Syria, 1928–37; Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Conn.


Katherine M Kiefer and Susan B. Matheson, Life in an Eastern Province: The Roman Fortress at Dura-Europos, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1982), no. 9.

Clark Hopkins, The Discovery of Dura-Europos, ed. Bernard Goldman (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1979), 110–112, excavation photo, ill.

Carl H. Kraeling and C. Bradford Welles, The Excavations at Dura-Europos (New Haven, Conn.: Dura-Europos Publications, 1967), 67–69, fig. 7 drawing from tracing; pls. 21 (color), 29:1, 40:1, 40:2 (tracing), fig. 7.

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.