The Portraits Look Back

5 FayumFayum mummy portraits

 Greco-Romans in Egypt during the first few centuries after Christ commissioned artists to paint their portraits, often in encaustic, on wood panels that were then affixed to their mummified bodies. These mummy portraits, though painted after death, depicted living subjects, their closed eyes re-opened (and in some cases, mightily enlarged) by the artist’s brush. Comparative studies suggest that, while the paintings are somewhat stylized, they bore a strong resemblance to the people they represented. The old were depicted as old, the young as young, and a facial reconstruction of at least one mummy is a dead ringer for the man in the portrait. The Fayum mummy portraits, in other words, are fairly accurate pictures of people who lived nearly two millennia ago, painted in a style that could pass for contemporary.

Of an Age

UntitledYouth hasn’t got anything to do with chronological age. It’s times of hope and happiness.
~ Wallace Stegner, Crossing To Safety

There is a grace in the way our bodies are made that lets us avoid looking too often or too long at the evidences of our years. Our parts are arranged so that we look out and reflect on life around us. This may be a comfort lost on younger readers. There are a couple of things about aging that take aging to appreciate: first, all the excitement of first experiences pales in the slow burn of getting it just right; and second, humans are beset with the appearance of age for about twice as long as the appearance of youth. (See other reasons to celebrate aging here.) Still, mirrors become less important and smiles become the essential accessory.

A Red Onion

spencer-peeling-onions

I didn’t know exactly what would come of it: I was washing lettuce under the cold-water tap, separating crisp fans of it from a few shapeless leaves. The fans would soon line a new green bowl. Into that, I would throw cuts of onion, tomato, more lettuce, avocado, and jicama. And all those pieces would make something that had not existed until that moment.