The pieces that will be focused on from the Greeks are Black-Figured Psykter and Red-Figured Kylix Depicting a Young Athelete, and from the Romans are Mummy Portrait of a Man and Mummy Portrait of a Young Woman. The Roman Portraits are located at The Menil Collection in Houston. The Mummy Portrait of a Man is from the Fayum region in Egypt. It was painted about 150-200 B.C. It is painted in encaustic on wood, and is a Fayum portrait. The Mummy Portrait of a Young Woman is also from the Fayum region and painted in encaustic on wood. This portrait was painted about 150-200 B.C.
The term Fayum portrait is actually derived from a Coptic word meaning " The land of the lake," which refers to the artificial Lake Qarun. This lake was a project of the kings of the Twelfth Dynasty, and it was this lake that made a desert area of about 100 kilometers into one of the most fertile areas in Egypt. It was such an amazing feat that the lake still to this day provides this region water keeping it fertile.
The purpose of the Mummy Portrait of a Man as well as the Mummy Portrait of a Young Woman was to identify the mummy. These portraits were paintings of the person that they identified. The edges of the paintings have paint missing, due to the fact that these portraits were placed over the face of the mummies. The fact that both the artists of these portraits are unknown is due to gravediggers and collectors. When a mummy was found, the main objective was to find out more about the mummy itself, and many times the paintings were disregarded and considered to be of no value.
The technique used with Fayum paintings is called encaustic. This style of painting involves combining the paint with hot wax in order to obtain more resilient colors and also to be able to contrast light and dark better. The only problem with this style of painting is that the wax would get cold and dry up in a short period of time. The artists had to work quickly in order to keep the pigment wax mix wet and able to spread across the canvas or wood. In order to work faster, the painters used wide brush strokes not paying a great deal of attention to the fine lines and details.
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