Fayum art is a term used to refer to portraits that were found in mummy burials. Numerous such portraits were found in Egypt in a place known as Faiyum so that the name was later on used to refer to this particular style. These pieces were made during the time when Romans reigned in Egypt and are regarded to be good examples of panel painting.
Few Greeks first lived alongside with the Egyptians but with intermarriage and the presence of more Romans, their cultures soon became enmeshed. These resulted into new customs, and an early form of portraiture. The pieces are remaining examples of how the Romans and the Egyptians combined their beliefs.
These portraits were placed on top of the mummies. Surprisingly enough, despite the hundreds of years that these pieces have been buried, they are still in good condition. The colors remained unchanged over time. Experts in the field think that this is largely due to the dry climate.
The Roman influence can be seen in the way the subjects are presented. They follow Roman fashion, from the way their hair is styled to the way they are dressed. The way they are painted is also considered an example of the styles Greeks used. Placing valued possessions with the dead however is an Egyptian practice due to their belief in the afterlife.
The pieces show people from different walks of life. They were painted on wood panels. These panels were then set in place using the cloth that was also used to wrap the mummy. In some cases, the cloth itself was used as a medium for the painting. Different techniques were used to produce a realistic image.
The encaustic technique is one such method. This technique involves the use of heated wax when mixing the pigments. The end product is durable and resistant to yellowing since no oil was used. The second technique is called the egg tempera technique. The yolk of an egg is mixed in with the paints to produce the needed colors.
They are considered valuable pieces because they are examples of classic antiquities. With the exact rendering of the subject, one can learn what they looked like and how they dressed. They are thought to be expensive items because only the wealthy and the privileged at that time could afford to have them made. Many think that these items were made after the subject had died.
To date, there are only around nine hundred pieces to have been found. Many of these are already being included in exhibits in a number of museums. Do not be surprised if there is little detail about these paintings as many have been excavated improperly. You will be able to find portraits of men and women in varying stages of their life.
Alongside the many Egyptian artifacts that have engage the interest of the public for a long time, fayum art was all too often ignored. Their value however cannot be denied as they are antiquities that represent the combination of two great civilizations. The subjects are portrayed in a realistic light so that the end product can be striking even to the modern viewer. These portraits provide a glimpse into ancient times.
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