For examples of Greek portrait painting we are indebted to Egypt, that country whose climate has preserved so much that elsewhere would have perished. It will be remembered that Egypt, having been conquered by Alexander, fell after his death to the lot of his general, Ptolemy, and continued to be ruled by Ptolemy's descendants until, in 30 B.C., it became a Roman province. During the period of Macedonian rule Alexandria was the chief center of Greek culture in the world, and Greeks and Greek civilization became established also in the interior of the country; nor did these Hellenizing influences abate under Roman domination. To this late period, when Greek and Egyptian customs ere largely amalgamated, belongs a class of portrait heads which have been found in the Fayyurn, chiefly within the last ten years. They are painted on panels of wood (or rarely on canvas), and were originally attached to mummies. The embalmed body was carefully wrapped in linen bandages and the portrait placed over the face and secured in position. These pictures are executed principally by the encaustic process, though some use was made also of tempera. The persons represented appear to be of various races – Greek, Egyptian, Hebrew, negro, and mixed; perhaps the Greek type predominates in the specimens now known. At any rate, the artistic methods of the portraits seem to be purely Greek. As for their date, it is the prevailing opinion that they belong to the second century after Christ and later, though an attempt has been made to carry the best of them back to the second century B.C.
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