Encaustic – Gallery 5

What is Encaustic Painting?   Encaustic painting involves painting with molten beeswax combined with damar resin crystals. Encaustic layers are added gradually, and fused with heat using either a propane torch (my preferred heating method) or heat gun. This heating process is what gives encaustic painting its name, which means “burning in” in Greek. This is an ancient medium, originating over 2000 years ago. Examples from antiquity include the Fayum Mummy Portraits from Egypt, discovered in the late 1800s, completely preserved to this day.

The word Encaustic comes from the Greek word “Enkaustikos”, which means to heat or to burn and is an ANCIENT medium.  Some of the oldest surviving encaustic paintings are the Fayum mummy portraits (Fayum is a hot, dry region of Egypt.) The Fayum funerary portraits were painted on wooden panel in the Greek realistic style, but showed contemporary fashion and hairstyles of the Roman court.  The wooden portraits were placed over the mummies faces, and buried in mortuary temples—where it was dry, dark and airless.

Many of these portraits were excavated in the late 1800s, and there are about 900 that are perfectly preserved, 2000 years later.  Paintings on panel were considered very prestigious in the Classical world, but the Fayum portraits are the only large body of art ON PANEL to have survived.