Egyptian Tales

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Fayoum portraits

Portrait art appeared at the beginning of the Roman era in Egypt in the first three centuries AD, to replace the funerary mask that covered the head and chest of the mummy during the periods of ancient Egyptian history, with a picture of the deceased placed over his face in the mummy wraps to help the soul identify its owner in the Аfterlife. 

These portraits were found in many archaeological sites from the north in Saqqara to the south in Aswan, but scholars called these paintings the Fayum portraits. This is because the first known images were found in the Fayum region, especially in the Roman cemetery area in Hawara, north of the pyramid of Amenemhat III, at the site of Al-Tayeh Palace, where the inhabitants of the city of Arsinoe (Crocodilopolis) were buried. 

Regarding the staining method, it is believed that the beeswax was purified by heating, and used after mixing it with the coloring material, then it was painted while it was hot using brushes that may have been made of palm fibers. In the warm climate of Egypt, there was no great difficulty in placing the colored wax in a fine, thin, flat layer on the surface of the painting, while moving the brush freely, in order for the artist to complete his work quickly. There is no doubt that the painter used a thinner brush to paint the details, and there are indications that the work was done with the painting in a vertical or semi-vertical position, as evidenced by the drops of paint paste falling down on the surface of some of these paintings. 

It seems that the technique of painting with heated wax (so-called Encaustic) did not originate in Egypt, but rather reached it through the Hellenes who were using it on a large scale. However, the ancient Egyptians used beeswax to cover wall paintings in the tombs of Thebes from at least the 18th Dynasty. The word Encaustic comes from Greek and means burning, which confirms the use of heat in the stages of wax painting.

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