Encaustic Painting During The Ancient Times
Encaustic painting is one of the world's oldest art forms! The earliest applications of encaustic wax paint was done by the artists of Ancient Greece -- hence, where the Greek word "enkaustikos" meaning "to burn in". Greek artists were using wax paint to adorn sculptures, murals, boats, and even architecture. They also used wax paint to highlight the features of the marble statues placed around the Acropolis. Greek art spread to Egypt during the Hellenistic period and with a large Greek population, it didn’t take the Egyptians long to adapt to the use of wax paint. Greek-trained Egyptians started to incorporate encaustic paint into their paintings as well as mummification practices. The most well-known encaustic paintings from those Ancient Times are beyond a doubt, the very life-like Faiyum Mummy Portraits of Egypt. These portraits were created to be placed over a mummy as a memorial and had impressive details of realistic looking facial features. These portraits not only showcased the advanced skills of the ancient portraiture artists but also demonstrated the unique qualities of encaustic paint. It is also amazing to see how well these Faiyum mummy portraits have been preserved over time. Despite being over 2000 years old, they are still on display in museums today withstanding the test of time with minimal cracking and without having faded or darkened in color. Whenever someone asks about the durability of encaustic paint, we often suggest they research these gorgeous portraits because they are a perfect illustration of how well encaustic paintings can hold up if properly cared for. As encaustic painting flourished in Greece and Egypt, it was also inevitable to spread to Rome. Pliny, the Roman historian, wrote in 1st century C.E. that encaustic wax paint was being used in the Roman portraits and mythology paintings done on panels. Pliny also noted that it was a popular trend of Roman aristocrats to possess encaustic paintings in their villas leading us to believe that encaustic paint did hold popularity and prestige. In fact, Julius Caesar himself commissioned an encaustic painting from the artist Timomakos. Archeologists have been able to discover some Roman encaustic paintings. For instance, a painting on slate depicting Cleopatra being bitten by the asp was found near the ruins of Hadrian’s villa. After the Roman Empire fell, artists began turning to other paint techniques instead of the encaustic paint because the ancient heating process was so laborious.