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Article

Sophie Page

Astrology is the art of predicting events on earth as well as human character and disposition from the movements of the planets and fixed stars. Medieval astrology encompassed both general concepts of celestial influence, and the technical art of making predictions with horoscopes, symbolic maps of the heavens at particular moments and places constructed from astronomical information. The scientific foundations of the art were developed in ancient Greece, largely lost in early medieval Europe and recovered by the Latin West from Arabic sources in the 12th and 13th centuries. Late medieval astrological images were successfully Christianized and were adapted to particular contexts, acquired local meanings and changed over time.

Astrology developed into a scientific branch of learning in ancient Greece, but because of the opposition of the Church Fathers it was transmitted to early medieval Europe in only fragmentary form in technically unsophisticated textbooks and popular divinatory genres. Literary and scientific texts provided more general ideas about the nature and attributes of the planets which were influential on later iconography. The first significant astrological images appear in 11th-century illustrated astronomical texts (e.g. London, BL, Cotton MS. Tiberius BV), which were acquired and produced by monasteries to aid with time-keeping and the construction of the Christian calendar....

Article

Thorsten Opper

Often highly individualistic portraits painted on wood or canvas that were positioned over the head of a mummy. They came into use in Egypt during the Roman Imperial period and partly replaced the more traditional, idealized masks. Some 900 to 1000 examples are currently known; particularly significant collections are in the British Museum and Petrie Museum in London, the Louvre in Paris, the Staatliche Museen in Berlin and the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Mummy portraits were found throughout Egypt from the delta to Nubia, but were concentrated in a few cemeteries in the Nile valley, such as Akhmim and Antinoöpolis, and particularly in the Faiyum (er-Rubayat and Hawara), so that they are sometimes also known as ‘Faiyum-portraits’.

The portraits were sometimes painted using very elaborate encaustic techniques, involving layers of coloured, heated wax that produced vivid chromatic tones, but cheaper versions in tempera on white backgrounds and even watercolour also occur. The insufficient state of publication of many portraits has generally not been conducive to studies into workshop connections or the isolation of individual painters; more detailed research on these aspects exists only for examples from Antinoöpolis....