wax encaustic

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Fayum Mummy Portraits, dating from around 30 BC to the mid 3rd century AD. 

The portrait heads were attached to Egyptian mummies of the Roman period, covering the faces of the deceased In the top pictures, you can see now they were bound to the mummy. Dating from the time of the Roman occupation of Egypt, they are closest to Graeco-Roman artistic traditions. Around 900 are known to survive and they are some of the only surviving evidence of Classical panel painting traditions. Due to their burial in hot, dry conditions with the bodies, many have survived in excellent condition. 

The term Fayum comes from an area of graveyards (necropoli) where they were found in large numbers, buried in communal catacombs. 

Painted on wooden board (and sometimes on cloth), either in encaustic (wax) or egg tempera. 

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The Ancient faces of the Fayum mummy portraits

Egypt


Mummy portraits or Fayum mummy portraits (also Faiyum mummy portraits) is the modern term given to a type of naturalistic painted portrait on wooden boards attached to Egyptian mummies from the Coptic period. They belong to the tradition of panel painting, one of the most highly regarded forms of art in the Classical world. In fact, the Fayum portraits are the only large body of art from that tradition to have survived.

 Mummy portraits have been found across Egypt, but are most common in the Faiyum Basin, particularly from Hawara in the Fayum Basin (hence the common name) and the Hadrianic Roman city Antinoopolis. “Faiyum Portraits” is generally thought of as a stylistic, rather than a geographic, description. While painted cartonnage mummy cases date back to pharaonic times, the Faiyum mummy portraits were an innovation dating to the Coptic period at the time of the Roman occupation of Egypt.

 They date to the Roman period, from the late 1st century BC or the early 1st century AD onwards. It is not clear when their production ended, but recent research suggests the middle of the 3rd century. They are among the largest groups among the very few survivors of the highly prestigious panel painting tradition of the classical world, which was continued into Byzantine and Western traditions in the post-classical world, including the local tradition of Coptic iconography in Egypt.

 The portraits covered the faces of bodies that were mummified for burial. Extant examples indicate that they were mounted into the bands of cloth that were used to wrap the bodies. Almost all have now been detached from the mummies. They usually depict a single person, showing the head, or head and upper chest, viewed frontally. In terms of artistic tradition, the images clearly derive more from Graeco-Roman traditions than Egyptian ones.

 Two groups of portraits can be distinguished by technique: one of encaustic (wax) paintings, the other in tempera. The former are usually of higher quality. About 900 mummy portraits are known at present. The majority were found in the necropoleis of Faiyum. Due to the hot dry Egyptian climate, the paintings are frequently very well preserved, often retaining their brilliant colours seemingly unfaded by time.

Personally I`ve seen some at the Museum and was stunned and hypnotized by the ancient 2000 year-old faces looking at me as if they were there with me.

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The Fayum mummy portraits is the modern term given to a type of naturalistic painted portrait on wooden boards attached to mummies from the Coptic (Roman) period of Egyptian history, their production dating between the 1st and 3rd Centuries. Mummy portraits have been found across Egypt, but are most common in the Faiyum Basin, particularly from Hawara and the Hadrianic Roman city Antinoopolis. “Faiyum Portraits” is generally thought of as a stylistic, rather than a geographic, description.

They are among the largest groups among the very few survivors of the highly prestigious panel painting tradition of the classical world, which was continued into Byzantine and Western traditions in the post-classical world, including the local tradition of Coptic iconography in Egypt.

The portraits covered the faces of bodies that were mummified for burial. Extant examples indicate that they were mounted into the bands of cloth that were used to wrap the bodies. Almost all have now been detached from the mummies. They usually depict a single person, showing the head, or head and upper chest, viewed frontally. In terms of artistic tradition, the images clearly derive more from Graeco-Roman traditions than Egyptian ones. Two groups of portraits can be distinguished by technique: one of encaustic (wax) paintings, the other in tempera. The former are usually of higher quality.

The works have come to be valuable in providing evidence of Roman fashion, including the evolution of popular hairstyles and clothing, but their primary significance is art-historical, holding an importance of immense value to the understanding of the evolution of western art. Ancient sources indicate that panel painting (rather than wall painting), i.e. painting on wood or other mobile surfaces was held in high regard, but very few ancient panel paintings survive. The reason for the survival of so many of the mummy portraits is in a large part due to Egypt’s extremely dry climate.

Some aspects of the mummy portraits, especially their frontal perspective and their concentration on key facial features, strongly resemble later icon painting. Their discovery in the 20th Century altered much of what was known about the history of early western art, and the maturity of the depictions, ranging from realistic to deliberately stylised quickly led art scholars to recognise the aesthetic value of the paintings to be extremely high. The immediacy of the gazes, forming a direct and sometimes challengingly life-like connection with the viewer, has been compared to early modernist art of the 20th Century. “The illusion, when standing in front of them, is that of coming face to face with someone one has to answer to—someone real.”

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Figuration is one of the oldest art forms, but it is continually evolving, reflecting contemporary concepts of human identity. Figurative art responds to technical innovations like printing, photography and digital reproduction, but the ancient craft of rendering the figure renews itself with each subsequent generation. The artists featured in UNREALISM work within the figurative canon without becoming academic. They are able to make a venerable tradition in art completely of our time.

The exhibition is on view for the duration of Art Basel Miami Beach, through December 6, 2015, 7pm ET at The Moore Building in the Miami Design District.
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Image: Urs Fischer, Zhou Yinghua, 2014, paraffin wax, microcrystalline wax, encaustic pigment, oil paint, steel, and wicks, 73 × 21 ¾ × 20 inches (185.4 × 55.2 × 50.8 cm) , ed. of 2 © Urs Fischer. Photo by Ali Walker

Artsy Witchy Things

Calling all witches and other interested parties! We’ve all come across the
fun things you can do with art materials either in your spell-work or your
grimoire/book of shadows/etc., like charging your water for watercolours
with stones or using storm water! Well, I happen to work at an art store,
and it’s brought me to some really fun little ideas that I thought I would
share!

ENCAUSTIC PAINTING - Encaustic painting is painting with wax. Artists will
also collage with encaustic wax, too, giving it a somewhat 3D kind of depth
and a dreamy kind of quality. Why not use your candle colour correspondences
in an encaustic painting? Not only that, but you could  save a jar or two
and turn your next spell into a fun little piece of art! Affirmations in
art-form put up on your wall seems like a great way to tackle that kind of
spell. Layer in found objects or images, use powdered pigment or oil paint
to tint the wax in whatever colour will work best for your purpose, and work
the wax with a thrift-store iron for some really cool patterns! Wax can be a
bit expensive, but it’s definitely an option! You can use beeswax to varnish
a painting, too, if you literally just paint your magic. You can etch sigils
into the wax, too!

RESIN - Do you really want to seal something so it will never go anywhere?
Resin would be the choice for you! Once resin hardens it is clear, glossy,
water-repellant, and very permanent. Be forewarned! When I say permanent, I
mean it! Don’t let resin get anywhere other than where you want it, because
it’s very difficult to remove! Cover what you don’t want with wax paper or something similar as it will peel off of a waxy or greasy surface. You can suspend found objects into molds, too, if you want to make them into
jewelry or talismans. I’ve seen preserved resin-painted flowers that looked
really stunning! Maybe you could even use a plastic bottle as a form, spray
the inside with a mold-release, and pour a spell into it! Cut the bottle
away and voila, a DIY jar-less jar-shaped spell!

RICE PAPER - Sometimes spell-casters work more specifically with masculine
or feminine energies, and want to designate their workings as such. Here’s a
cool thing! Chinese and Japanese calligraphy is done on “rice paper,” which
is a complete misnomer because it’s made mostly out of the mulberry plant.
The most common and least expensive version is known as kozo paper, representing the masculine aspects of calligraphy, “thick and strong.” Mitsumata paper takes a bit longer to grow and is associated with the feminine qualities of “grace, delicacy, softness, and modesty.” Also, mulberry is an annual plant, so it’s much friendlier for the environment. So the next time you’re doing something invoking these qualities, you can draw on the traditions of some really cool paper! This stuff accepts ink really well, would make great homemade pages, and would make lovely origami, too!

SCRATCH BOARD - Scratch board is a coloured board covered in a dark chalk
that you etch away with something pointy to reveal the colour beneath. Are you dealing with secret things? Looking for something? Pulling back a veil? Maybe you could incorporate scratch board, or even make your own with a painted surface covered with waxy crayon or similar!

WAX RESIST - When you were a kid, did you ever colour with a crayon and then cover it with a wash of watery ink? That’s called a wax resist! Try some wax
resist in spells to repel unwanted things, or to preserve words when brushed
over with storm water! You don’t even need anything fancy to do this, just a
crayon and paper.

WATERCOLOUR TAPE - And speaking of storm water, try using some watercolour tape! Watercolour tape is gummed, meaning it reacts with water. You wet the tape to stick it on to something, and when it dries it clings! To remove, you wet it again. Usually this is used to stretch paper before you paint on it so that the fibres all shrink at the same time, which stops your paper
from buckling. Why not jazz this up with a little intention and some appropriate water? You could probably design a wicked binding this way!