Faiyum Portraits
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Faiyum Portraits

Faiyum portraits are found on bodies laid to rest in Ancient Egypt. They are also called Fayum mummy portraits. They have a very natural appearance and this makes them really attractive to people in this day and age. They were found by persons who conducted explorations in the Faiyum region and were named after their place of origin.

Faiyum portraits originate from the Faiyum basin in Egypt. This style of art is found in the famous Tomb of Aline. There are three other mummies there along with the corpse of the woman that the structure is named after. Her own mummy is decorated with a three dimensional plaster mask.

Faiyum Portraits: Panel Painting

Faiyum portraits are some of the few remaining examples of panel painting from the ancient world. They were done in Ancient Egypt and have a very lifelike appearance. This form of artwork was found attached to mummies in Egypt and usually represented the person inside. They were typically created using either encaustic techniques or egg based tempera.

Panel paintings, as the name suggests, are done on flat pieces of wood. The surface can be constructed of several different pieces joined together or just one smooth slab of wood. It was the chosen surface for a number of years. After painters started to use canvas, it was gradually replaced as the surface of choice. However many artists today still paint on wood.

Large painted friezes were not only used in private ceremonies and residences. They were also found in municipal buildings. Egypt is unique because it is hot and dry. These conditions helped to preserve the work and prevent is from breaking down due to mildew and other factors that would exist in more cool climate. In all, about nine hundred Faiyum portraits remain today.

Many of the portraits seemed to have been done for wealthy patrons during a time when Rome occupied the country. Those persons who spent money on them earned their living in the civil service, military and clergy. People who did not belong to the affluent upper class could rarely afford to have one of these works of art done for them.

Fayum Mummy Portraits: Reserved for the Wealthy

Many mummies were found without an attached portrait. In fact, only two corpses of every hundred laid to rest were decorated in that way. The price is likely to have stemmed more from the cost of the media, since in that time artists were not paid well and were regarded as skilled workers.

Faiyum Portraits: Realistic Paintings

The illustrations on wood are very similar to the icon designs that came later. The works focus strongly on certain facial features. They also have the same frontal perspective that historians notice in iconic design. Several academics think that there is direct link between the two schools.

Faiyum portraits have a modern style that attracts viewers today. People also like the lifelike appearance of the work. They are quite vivid and the encaustic images have an Impressionist look about them. The artists understood anatomy well and this influences their portrayals in a positive way.

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