iKons to iPhones – religion and art combined

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Ikons to iphones religion and art

ikons to iPhones

concept and text written by Denis Taylor

The Ikon [or eng: iCon] comes from the Greek word eikon (Greeek meaning: image resemblance) from that basic understanding of the word eiKon, this article is based as a concept.

Egyptian iKons?

The famous paintings known as the Faiyum Portraits were discovered at the Necropolis of Faiyum and today could be viewed as form of icons of Art. Although many of these portraits were also found elsewhere in Egypt the vast majority of the Greco/Roman Egyptian portraits were discovered in the Faiyum Basin. The initial examples of these portraits were sent to Europe from the Saqqara Pyramid in 1615 by Pietro Della, an Italian voyager. Due to the dry hot Egyptian climate the portraits were amazingly preserved and the colours astonished the viewers of them as they seemed as just as vibrant as the day they were painted. 

It took until 1887 before the British Egyptologist, Flinders Petrie, started excavations at Hawara where he found eighty one portraits in the (Hawara) necropolis. He showcased them all at an exhibition in London. Following the huge success of that exhibition he travelled back to the Necropolis (to (north of the Pyramid of Amenemhat III and at the Palace of the “Labyrinth”) in 1910 and he found another seventy portraits. Most of these portraits are on display in Cairo and London museums. 

It is thought that this form of panel portrait painting had started as early as the first century BC in Egypt. The early Egyptians had been painting pictures of their Gods and Pharaohs they were attached and buried with mummies for generations, therefore it was a natural switch to a employ more realistic style of portraiture, one that today we have become familiar with in the past and contemporary portraiture, over the last several centuries.

The Faiyum portraits were found attached to the head of their loved ones after they were bound with bands of Cartonnage and buried in a wooden casket.  Cartonnage is made from layers of linen which was then covered in wet plaster which dried to a final finish which became hard and smooth covering the body. The medium  used varied as time progressed. Later colours used were created with natural pigments bound together with egg, which became known as tempera.  A medium that was also favoured by the Greeks and Byzantium icon painters for murals. Many of the early Faiyum portraits and indeed sixth century icons, were created using encaustic. (hot wax painting). The common (and probably the earliest encaustic painting) was made by heating Beeswax and Damar resin with pigments. All material can be collaged (layered) into the medium. The wax encaustic method was described by the Roman scholar Pliny the Elder around the first century AD that this method was used by artists for the Faiyum portraits from around 100 to 300 AD.  

The word encaustic, comes from the ancient Greeks meaning quite literary “burning in.” Today the encaustic method grew in popularity from around  the 1990s, although it seems the mastering of the technique has not been easy to achieved for portraiture in modern painting, but has be used for gaining textural and depth of field in mostly abstract pattern work or semi abstract landscape painting, which is less demanding.

Some believe that Fayum portraits were painted during the lives of their owners and displayed in their homes until death and then they would cover the face of the mummy with the painting post mortem. This would seem to be the common practise, hence the sheer quantity of discoveries in Egypt.  Some believe that many of the portraits were painted after the death of their owners. The portraits have also been found without mummies attached to them….


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