The last week we have been in Egypt, and have been bombarded with sellers claiming to sell us ‘genuine papyrus’ artwork.
So is it real Papyrus Paintings or genuine Papyrus Paintings they offer you in the streets and markets?
However, most of it is actually dried banana leaf or other vegetable matter.
And we learn how exactly Papyrus paper is really made.
Papyrus paper is made from the stem or stalk of the papyrus plant.
The outer layer is first removed, and the soft inside fiber is cut longways into thin strips. These strips are usually about 35 to 40 cm long.
The strips are then placed side by side on a piece of wet felt or fabric with the edges meeting or slightly overlapping, and then another layer of strips are then laid on top at a 90 degree right angle.
The strips may have been soaked in water long enough for softening to begin, which allows them to adhere slightly together because they are so soft, so they mold easily and mesh in form.
Another piece of damp felt or fabric is placed on the top and the two layers are hammered together, mashing the layers into a single sheet.
The sheet is then dried under pressure, sometimes using a press.
After drying, the sheet of papyrus paper is polished with some rounded object.
You can see Waleed our tour guide giving us a demonstration below.
Sheets could be cut to fit the standard size used for art, or glued together to create a long roll.
In ancient times it was custom for a wooden stick would be attached to the last sheet in a roll, making it easier to use and to decrease the risk of damage when it was used. It was never folded, only rolled.
Thus the papyrus paper was made and is still used today.
There are a number of things to consider when purchasing papyrus art.
Be aware there is fake papyrus and it is usually banana leaf or stalk, corn husks, potatoes, eggplant, carrot, and a few other materials can also be found.
But don’t be fooled. Real papyrus is usually weightier and difficult to tear. The best way to tell is to dampen it and it won’t fall apart, but rarely can you do this with art.
There is a light and dark papyrus paper. The longer it is soaked for, the darker the paper. The lighter sheets are stronger.
Take note; reputable papyrus paper and art dealers will stamp their merchandise with the store stamp to guarantee the authenticity of the product, or give you a certificate of authenticity.
Authentic papyrus artwork is usually hand-painted and not printed by any machine, as you will find with fake papyrus artwork.
Be on the lookout for flaking of the painted surface too.
Some artists painting on large sheets may use a silk screen process for drawing the outlines and then complete the rest of the painting/art manually.
Even genuine papyrus can be found at times to be printed using a color printer.
But genuine artwork will be signed by the artist as well.
The stringy edges are also something that should be displayed outside the mount when framing.
So when we visited Isis 2 Papyrus Museum we were pleased with their huge showroom, and the fact that we walked away with was signed artwork, supplied with a guarantee, and rolled in a tube for transportation.
It is also meant to be way cheaper in Luxor than in Cairo.
So make sure you visit this great showroom if you want to buy quality papyrus artwork.
Isis 2 Papyrus Museum
Address: Hilton Road El Karnak Luxor, Luxor, Egypt