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21st century technologies shed new light on the Egyptian painting

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Researchers from UCLA and the National Gallery of Art in Washington used the latest technologies to discover the process of the creation of an ancient work of art – a female Fayum mummy portrait.

The portrait of a dead woman is almost 2000 years old and is an example of the so-called Fayum mummy portrait. It was created in the second century CE and comes from Roman Egypt. The painting is extremely clear – big black eyes, outlined eyebrows, full lips, a bright necklace and an intensely purple robe. Certainly, the portrait shows a respectable and rich matron.

As it turns out, scientists are able to learn more about the secrets associated with the work. Using a combination of three different methods, they succeeded in applying the so-called technology of macroscopic multimodal chemical imaging, which allowed to create an extremely detailed map of chemical traces of applied pigments.

The artist who made this work mixed various materials to achieve vivid colors: red ocher and lead to mark the cheeks, carbon black, natrojarosite to achieve a green-yellow background and other pigments to obtain the color of hair. The new technique also allowed the researchers to state that the image was made using three different tools: a brush with bristles, engraving tools and a metal spoon.

In addition, it was possible to confirm the assumptions that before applying the pigments, the artist evenly melted the bee wax and spread it over the wood (so-called encaustic painting). All these conclusions were drawn by the authors without removing any material from the painting.

More about research in the source.

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