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Mysterious Fayum Portraits Hardcover – October 15, 1995

5 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The Fayum, a flourishing metropolitan community in ancient Egypt, consisted of Greeks, Egyptians, Syrians, Libyans, and others. Like many of their contemporaries throughout the Nile Valley, these people embalmed their dead and then painted commemorative portraits of them, usually on wood or linen, to be placed over the mummies. Looking into the well-preserved, startlingly lifelike faces collected in this beautiful volume, one can trace the earliest roots of portraiture as it began in these Greco-Roman Fayum, or mummy, portraits, and continued through the Renaissance to the present. Despite their ancient history, the stylized portraits appear strikingly modern and painterly, with echoes of Modigliani and Matisse. Having experimented with them herself, Euphrosyne Doxiadis describes in detail the painting techniques and materials. Also included are fascinating notes on the clothing, jewelry, and hairstyles of the period.

From Publishers Weekly

Made in the lush Fayum region of Greco-Roman Egypt during the first three centuries A.D., portraits of the embalmed, mummified dead-each painted on a thin wooden panel or linen shroud and placed over the face to preserve the memory of the individual-are among the glories of world art. Staring at us with intense, disturbing gazes, these men and women speak to us as if from the otherworld, transcending mortality and death. Greek artist Doxiadis, who traveled to museums and collections around the world to study the Fayum portraits, has produced an important and beautiful volume that fills a major gap in the documentation of the art of antiquity. She reconstructs the Fayum painters' techniques and places the portraits in a pictorial tradition extending from fourth-century B.C. Greek naturalism to Byzantine icons. We see the Fayum portraits as the product of a cosmopolitan, multiracial society of Hellenized Greeks, Romans, Syrians, Jews, Libyans and Nubians who had largely adopted the Egyptian cult of the dead.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Harry N. Abrams; First edition (October 15, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810933314
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810933316
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 1 x 13 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,914,899 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
This is a beautiful book for anyone interested in Hellenistic Greek or Roman painting or portraits from any time. These are the first portraits in which the subjects look directly at us as we regard them. They are a haunting glimpse into the lives of people dead for 2000 years. This book is full of big color illustrations. Doxiadis does a fine job of tracing the history of the discovery, theories about, and conservation of these images.
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Format: Hardcover
I first saw this book in the Getty Villa reading room, and aquired it here at a nice discount. A art history book written by an artist, what a concept! This is a hauntingly beautiful book that invites the owner to open it again and transport themselves back several millenia. These paintings are so wonderful it is easy to understand how "the experts" thought them fakes when they first appeared! The text is almost as much a pleasure to read as the paintings are to view. Some of the paintings are surprisingly contemporary and possess much of what artists pride themselves in accomplishing during the last 125 years or so.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
My art teacher brought this book to class and I couldn't put it down. It's a little pricey but worth every cent. I go to another place in my head while looking at the portraits imagining what their lives must have been like. I feel as if they are people I know. The text is good, too. This was obviously a labor of love for the author.
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Format: Hardcover
I checked this book out from the library so many times, that noone else got to read it. If you are an artist or someone who wants to work with past lives, or a novelist, this is the book for you.

for the portraits in this book, painted in Alexandria m during the Greek/roman period of Eygpt's history, are wonderful! The Writer analyses each painting from a painter's perspective , breaking down the colors and pigments used in those times, for instance black is often burnt wine. the illusion of Gold was made with yellow orche / white and a darker color. I tried painting many of the pictures myself.
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Format: Hardcover
I used to hate and loathe art from Classical antiquity. Marble statues of idealized gods or warty old Roman senators? I could not relate. And please don't even get me started on Early Christian & Byzantine art or mosaics! I discovered this book while looking into the Fayum mummy portraits at the British Museum. These paintings were 2nd Century encaustic paint on papyrus that was usually wrapped around a corpse. Due to the climate conditions at the site where these mummies were buried, the paintings are remarkably well preserved. The look of these portraits is reminiscent of 19th century portraiture, far more relatable and human than the Olympians or historical worthies in other classical art. There is something otherworldly about these paintings from the anonymity of the people represented to the realistic modeling of light and rich color of the pigments. And yet they seem immediate and contemporary, not two millennia old.
This actual book about the Fayum mummy portraits, by Euphryosyne Doxiodoxis is supposed to be the authoritative edition, and when you pick it up you'll understand that this is a thick and substantial coffeetable book on the topic. This quarto size of this book is a richly deserved treatment for these works of art which should be studied by anybody interested in doing portraits today. There had been a copy of this at the Getty Villa last August, it had a broken spine, when I returned there over Christmas, it was gone, maybe somebody else realized what a great book this is. Maybe somebody at the Getty press should run a new edition of this book?
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