Greek and Roman Art

Greek and Roman Art

Art has changed a great deal since it began
many centuries ago. Centuries, however, are not necessary to notice
the small changes that are evident even between cultures of similar times.

Such is the case with the Greeks and Romans. Both cultures had exquisite
pieces of art, but they were very different from each other. The
amazing thing about art is that no matter how many differences exist, it
is still beautiful in its own sense. There are also a number of similarities
that are evident with these two cultures as well, but the point that will
be focused on is the differences that are found between Greek and Roman
art. The pieces that will be focused on from the Greeks are Black-Figured

Psykter and Red-Figured Kylix Depicting a Young Athelete, and from the

Romans are Mummy Portrait of a Man and Mummy Portrait of a Young Woman.

The Roman Portraits are located
at The Menil Collection in Houston. The Mummy Portrait of a Man is
from the Fayum region in Egypt. It was painted about 150-200 B.C.

It is painted in encaustic on wood, and is a Fayum portrait. The

Mummy Portrait of a Young Woman is also from the Fayum region and painted
in encaustic on wood. This portrait was painted about 150-200 B.C.

The term Fayum portrait is actually derived from a Coptic word meaning

" The land of the lake," which refers to the artificial Lake Qarun.

This lake was a project of the kings of the Twelfth Dynasty, and it was
this lake that made a desert area of about 100 kilometers into one of the
most fertile areas in Egypt. It was such an amazing feat that the
lake still to this day provides this region water keeping it fertile.

The purpose of the Mummy Portrait
of a Man as well as the Mummy Portrait of a Young Woman was to identify
the mummy. These portraits were paintings of the person that they
identified. The edges of the paintings have paint missing, due to
the fact that these portraits were placed over the face of the mummies.

The fact that both the artists of these portraits are unknown is due to
gravediggers and collectors. When a mummy was found, the main objective
was to find out more about the mummy itself, and many times the paintings
were disregarded and considered to be of no value.

The technique used with Fayum paintings
is called encaustic. This style of painting involves combining the
paint with hot wax in order to obtain more resilient colors and also to
be able to contrast light and dark better. The only problem with
this style of painting is that the wax would get cold and dry up in a short
period of time. The artists had to work quickly in order to keep
the pigment wax mix wet and able to spread across the canvas or wood.

In order to work faster, the painters used wide brush strokes not paying
a great deal of attention to the fine lines and details. One major
advantage of using the hot wax with the pigment is that the artist was
able to capture a dark or thick appearance as well as a light appearance
to the wood while keeping the paint smooth and silky looking. Because of
the rushed way in which the portraits were painted allows for similarities
between the two. The Portrait of a Man is at a slight angle as compared
to the Portrait of a Young Woman, but looking beyond this fact and looking
at close detail, it is easy to see the similarities between the ears of
the man and woman in each painting. The eyes on both of the paintings
are very similar as well. Both the man and the woman have their eyes
deep set in their head, and appear to be staring out into space. Yet another
similarity between the two is the eyebrows. Both the man and the
woman are depicted as having thick eyebrows as well as a small mouth.

Both portraits have long and thin noses. The portrait of the man,
as said earlier, is set at an angle as compared to the portrait of the
woman, but this seems to be the case for all Fayum portraits. The
hair of the beard on the man looks almost identical to the hair on the
woman, as well as the use of light that was used to highlight the neck
and ears. Even containing all of these similarities, each of the

Fayum portraits have their own meaning and are seen