Encaustic Technique: Egyptian Fayum Paintings
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Encaustic Technique: Egyptian Fayum Paintings

The encaustic technique is first thought to have been used by Ancient Greek shipbuilders, they applied the wax whenever they needed to repair breaches in the hulls of their vessels. Gradually, they began to add different pigments to the sealant and made something of beauty out of the body of their ship.

The Encaustic technique has a unique look to it. People have utilized this technique for thousands of years. It was utilized in Ancient Egypt and in countries like the Philippines. Many of the ancient works of art still survive today, although it would be thought that a medium like wax would deteriorate very rapidly.

The colors in their work are still quite vivid. This is due to the medium that was used and the preservative effect of the desert sun. Encaustic Technique: Beeswax in Art Many modern artists use beeswax to create beautiful works of art. They also add agents that help to harden and stabilize the mixture. In Egypt, the artists painted their own mixture onto a wood panel. Since the panel was laid flat, the mixture would not run.

Encaustic Technique: Mummies of Ancient Egypt

While panel painting was very popular in the ancient world, one of the only examples remaining is found in Egyptian Fayum paintings. This sort of artwork in Egypt was attached to mummies. They represented the individuals inside. They were generally created using either egg based tempera or encaustic techniques. The majority of these pieces of art were apparently done for rich patrons. Those who were able to afford them worked in the clergy, military and civil service. The people who were not members of the wealthy upper class could not spend their money on one of these expensive portraits.

Encaustic Technique: Reserved for Those who Could Afford It

Many mummies did not have a portrait attached. In fact, for every hundred corpses that were laid to rest, only two were decorated in this way. Historians assume that most of the cost for doing these works stemmed from the high price of the materials involved, since in those days, talented individuals were regarded more as skilled workers than fine artists.

Well known examples from this genre are in the tombs belonging to a woman named Aline and her family. Four mummies are contained there and three are her relatives. While her husband and two children are adorned with work done in this style, her own mummy is fitted with a plaster mask. These illustrations on wood are thought to be forerunners of the famous icon designs. The works are strongly concentrated on particular facial features. In addition to this the frontal perspective is similar to that within iconic patterns. A few historians think both schools are directly connected.

Members of the public are often surprised by how lifelike these works are. Fayum encaustic wax art is very much like the contemporary paintings we enjoy today. The colors are bright yet the encaustic work also has an Impressionist feel. The people who did them have a good grasp of anatomy and this positively influences the quality of their portrayals.

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Comments (1)

Fascinating article, thank you