Encaustic painting is one of the world's oldest art forms! The earliest applications of encaustic wax paint was done by the artists of Ancient Greece--hence, where the Greek term "enkaustikos"comes into play meaning "to burn in". Greek artists wrer using wax painting to adorn sculpture, murals, boats and even architecture. Greek art spread to Egypt during the Hellenistic period and with a large Greek population, it didn't take the Egyptians long to adapt to the use of wax paint.
Greek-trained Egyptians started to incorporate encaustic paint into their paintings as well as mummification practices. The most well known encaustic paintings from those Ancient Times are beyond a doubt, the very life-like Faiyum Mummy Portraits of Egypt. These portraits were created to be placed over a mummy as a memorial and had impressive details of realistic looking facial features. They not only showcased the advanced skills of the ancient portraiture artists but also demonstrated the unique qualities of encaustic paint. It is also amazing to see how well these Faiyum mummy portraits have been preserved over time. Despite being over 2000 years old, they are still on display in museums today withstanding the test of time with minimal cracking and without having faded or darkened in color. As encaustic painting flourished in Greece and Egypt, it was also inevitable to spread to Rome. Pliny, the Roman historian, wrote in the first century that encaustic wax paint was being used in the Roman portraits and mythology paintings done on panels.Pliny also noted that it was a popular trend of roman aristocrats to possess encaustic paintings in their villas leading us to believe that encaustic paint did hold popularity and prestige. In fact, Julius Caesar commissioned an encaustic painting from the artist Timomakus. After the Roman Empire fell, artists began turning to cheaper, quicker paint instead of the encaustic paint because the ancient heating process was so laborious.