Monday, December 27, 2010


Encaustic Beeswax Painting
(after Fayum Mummy Portraits)
12' X 16"
Judy Vars
The Fayum Mummy Portraits were found in the fertile Nile region known as Fayum, these ancient necropolises contained literally thousands of these ancient portraits. These paintings offer a rare glimpse into the personalities of people that lived in the time of Cleopatra and Marc Anthony. These effigies have remarkably withstood  thousands of years of extreme heat and cold. The fertile Nile Delta known as Alexandria was a mix of Greek, Roman and Egyptian cultures. These Fayum Mummy Portraits are painted in the classical Greek style upon thin birch wood panels. The mummies are wrapped and preserved with Egyptian techniques and Roman in their social content.

I have painted Sarah according to the Greek school i.e. palette which contains only four colors; white, yellow ochre, red ochre and black and then painted with encaustic beeswax and embellished with gold leaf.

They were painted life size and probably painted while the person was still alive then added to the mummy casing after death. All my portraits all share one common element with their ancient cousins and that is their hypnotic gaze which seems to suspend them in the eternal present. The mystery of the Fayum portraits has captured my imagination; no one knows for sure their dating, origin or their true function.

For years I have been in love with icons, the spiritual aspect and the everyday aspect of icons. I ask myself questions like; what makes an “icon”? When somebody emerges into the social fabric of our society there image is everywhere and their personality is part of our shared experience (unless you live under a rock). We love to hate our icons. Is luck, fame and fortune as random as winning the lottery or getting hit by a truck or is it divine? Sure talent and hard are usually necessary but there are millions of talented people (myself for example) who will be as forgotten as if they never lived in a couple of generations.

I am making a gallery of modern icons "The Hall of the Famous the Infamous and the Obscure" if you have any ideas let me know. My previous icon was Angelina Jolie as Cleopatra and Martha Sanchez as Frida.  See below, You get the idea.

Your critique, ideas and comments are always appreciated the painting can always be reworked and improved upon, that’s the beauty of encaustic wax.

1 comment:

Ramona Argolia said...

Thank you for that. I didn't know the Greek pallet. I will sleep less dumb tonight. Also, nice work.