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The government asked church officials to prevent crowds from gathering in front of churches Thursday after Mass - apparently to avoid providing a large target for attack, but perhaps also to avoid a new outbreak of protests.State TV gave heavy coverage to the Christmas Eve Mass to promote a sense of unity.
While painted cartonnage mummy cases date back to pharaonic times, the Faiyum mummy portraits were an innovation dating to the Coptic period at the time of the Roman occupation of Egypt.President Hosni Mubarak's two sons and several Egyptian government ministers attended the services, as did some foreign diplomats.This year, the ceremony was also preceded by a live discussion by a team of prominent TV hosts and newscasters, all dressed in black, standing on the cathedral steps and speaking of the bonds between Muslims and Christians.In 1827, Léon de Laborde brought two portraits, supposedly found in Memphis, to Europe, one of which can today be seen at the Louvre, the other in the British Museum.Ippolito Rosellini, a member of Jean-François Champollion's 1828/29 expedition to Egypt, brought a further portrait back to Florence.Extant examples indicate that they were mounted into the bands of cloth that were used to wrap the bodies.
Almost all have now been detached from the mummies.The portraits date to the Imperial Roman era, from the late 1st century BC or the early 1st century AD onwards.It is not clear when their production ended, but recent research suggests the middle of the 3rd century.He transported some mummies with portraits to Europe, which are now in the Albertinum (Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden).Although interest in Ancient Egypt steadily increased after that period, further finds of mummy portraits did not become known before the early 19th century.Two groups of portraits can be distinguished by technique: one of encaustic (wax) paintings, the other in tempera. Due to the hot dry Egyptian climate, the paintings are frequently very well preserved, often retaining their brilliant colours seemingly unfaded by time.