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Most of our knowledge of this early use comes from the Roman historian Pliny the Elder whose Natural Historywritten in the 1st century A. Pliny seems to have had little direct knowledge about studio methods, so his account of techniques and materials is not thorough, but his discussion gives us an idea of its general usage.
According to Pliny, encaustic had a variety of applications: Wax is an excellent preservative of materials.
It was from this use that the art of encaustic painting developed. The Greeks applied coatings of wax and pitch to weatherproof their ships. Pigmenting the wax gave rise to the decorating of warships and later, merchant ships.
Mention is even made by Homer of the painted ships of the Greek warriors who fought at Troy. The use of a rudimentary encaustic was an established practice in the Classical Period BC.
It is possible that at about that time the crude paint applied with tar brushes to the ships was refined for the art of painting on panels. Pliny mentions two artists who had in fact started out as ship painters.
Tempera was a faster, cheaper process. Encaustic was a slow involved technique, but the paint could be built up in relief, and the wax gave a rich optical effect to the pigment. These characteristics made the finished work startlingly lifelike.
Moreover, encaustic had far greater durability than tempera, which was vulnerable to moisture. Pliny refers to encaustic paintings several hundred years old in the possession of Roman aristocrats of his own time.
Encaustic in Sculpture We know that the white marble we see today in the monuments of Greek antiquity was once colored, either boldly or delicately and that wax was used to both preserve and enhance that marble see "Polychromy in Greek Sculpture" below.
The literary evidence of how this was done is scant. The figures on the Alexander Sarcophagus in the archeological Museum of Istanbul are an example of such coloration, although it is not clear how intense the original color was.
The methods used to color the marble probably varied. A 4th Century BC terracotta krater vase in the Metropolitan museum depicts a painter applying encaustic to a sculpture of Heracles while his servant heats up metal spatulas on a charcoal brazier.
The Fayum Portraits Perhaps the best known of all encaustic work are the Fayum funeral portraits painted in the 1st and 2nd centuries A. A significant Greek population had settled in Egypt following its conquest by Alexander, eventually adopting the practice of mummifying their dead.
The portraits, painted either in the prime of life or after death, were placed over the person's mummy as a memorial. The custom of funeral portraits did not begin until after the conquest of Egypt by Rome and lasted about two centuries.
The portraits represent the converging influence of Egyptian religious ritual, Greek aesthetic and Roman fashions and social ranking. Many of these pieces have survived to our own time, and their color has remained as fresh as any recently completed work.
The great period of economic instability that followed the decline of the Roman Empire and the change in cultural values caused encaustic to fall into disuse.
Some encaustic work, particularly the painting of icons, was carried on as late as the 7th century, but for the most part it became a lost art. It was replaced by tempera, which was cheaper, faster, and less demanding to work with.THE HISTORY OF THE TREATDNT:BY EXTENSION, OF FRACTURES OF LONG BONES For knowledge of the treatment of fractures in the prehistoric period, we have to go to the findings of those who have explored the ancient grave1ards and tombs.
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