Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Coptic Kitsch?


Fayum mummy portraits, pictured above, are "2000-year old Roman Egyptian paintings... that families paid professionals to make to (presumably) remember lost loved ones [and] only survived due to the dry climate" mentioned by Steve Sailer in his recent post — Kitsch down through the ages. Mr. Sailer continues:
    And they are just heartbreaking. If you are thumbing through a history of art of the ancient world textbook, these Fayum paintings often come last, after a long series of Egyptian-Babylonian-Greek-Roman art works intended to express aristocratic conceptions of the potential of human beauty, Ozymandias-like works intended to impose obedience, nouveau riche interior decoration, commercial pottery, and a lot of other stuff that is aesthetically impressive but doesn't make all that much of an immediate emotional impression on us. And then, at last, these cheap Fayum portraits are like a dagger to the heart, reminding us that the ancients were human beings like us who suffered emotional agonies when their ten year old children died.

    But, keep in mind that these Fayum portraits were semi-mass produced, using standard techniques. They probably aren't terribly realistic pictures of the deceased, being more like reproductions from various pre-existing templates of say, a pre-adolescent boy. I fear that if I were an educated, aristocratic resident of Alexandria and had seen them all my life, I'd roll my eyes and disparage them as kitschy.
Perhaps. Mr. Sailer's post was in reposnse to comments that "traditional cultures in general seem to get degraded into kitschiness once they come into contact with modernity" and the lack of "kitschiness among traditional traditional cultures."

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