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tempera painting, painting executed with pigment ground in a water-miscible medium. Words tempera initially came indigenous the verb temper, “to lug to a wanted consistency.” dry pigments are made usable by “tempering” them with a binding and adhesive vehicle. Such painting was identified from fresco painting, the colours because that which included no binder. Eventually, after the rise of oil painting, the word gained its present meaning.

Tempera is an ancient medium, having actually been in continuous use in most of the world’s societies until that was progressively superseded through oil paints in Europe, during the Renaissance. Tempera to be the initial mural tool in the ancient dynasties the Egypt, Babylonia, Mycenaean Greece, and China and also was supplied to decorate the at an early stage Christian catacombs. It to be employed on a selection of supports, native the rock stelae (or commemorative pillars), mummy cases, and papyrus roll of ancient Egypt to the hardwood panels of byzantine icons and altarpieces and also the vellum pipeline of middle ages illuminated manuscripts.



True tempera is make by mixture with the yolk of new eggs, although manuscript illuminators regularly used egg white and also some easel painters included the entirety egg. Various other emulsions—such together casein glue with linseed oil, egg yolk v gum and linseed oil, and egg white with linseed or poppy oil—have additionally been used. Separation, personal, instance painters have experimented with other recipes, but few of those have proved successful; all yet William Blake’s later tempera paints on copper sheets, because that instance, have actually darkened and also decayed, and also it is thought that he blended his pigment through carpenter’s glue.

Distemper is a crude kind of tempera make by mixing dry pigment right into a paste v water, i m sorry is thinned with heated adhesive in functioning or by adding pigment come whiting (a mixture of fine-ground chalk and size). That is provided for phase scenery and also full-size preparatory cartoons for murals and also tapestries. When dry, that colours have actually the pale, matte, powdery high quality of pastels, through a similar tendency to smudge. Indeed, damaged cartoons have been retouched with pastel chalks.


Egg tempera is the most-durable kind of the medium, being usually unaffected by humidity and temperature. The dries quickly to form a challenging film that acts as a protective skin come the support. In handling, in its diversity that transparent and also opaque effects, and also in the satin sheen the its finish, it each other the contemporary acrylic resin emulsion paints.

Traditional tempera painting is a lengthy process. Its supports space smooth surfaces, such as planed wood, fine set plaster, stone, paper, vellum, canvas, and modern-day composition plank of compressed hardwood or paper. Linen is normally glued come the surface of dashboard supports, added strips masking the seams between braced wood planks. Gesso, a mixture of plaster of paris (or gypsum) with size, is the timeless ground. The very first layer is of gesso grosso, a mixture of outlet unslaked plaster and also size. That provides a turbulent absorbent surface for 10 or much more thin coats the gesso sottile, a smooth mixture of size and fine plaster formerly slaked in water come retard drying. This laborious preparation results in an opaque, brilliant white, light-reflecting surface similar in texture to hard level icing sugar.

The design for a large tempera paint was traditionally enforcement in distemper on a thick record cartoon. The outlines were pricked v a perforating wheel for this reason that as soon as the cartoon to be laid on the surface of the support, the straight pattern was moved by dabbing, or “pouncing,” the perforations with a muslin bag of powdered charcoal. The dotted contours traced with were then solved in paint. Medieval tempera painters of panels and also manuscripts made lavish usage of gold leaf on backgrounds and for symbolic features, such as haloes and beams the heavenly light. Areas of the pounced design intended for gilding were first built up into low relief through gesso duro, the harder, less-absorbent gesso compound also used for sophisticated frame moldings. Background areas were regularly textured by impressing the gesso duro, prior to it set, with small, carved, intaglio lumber blocks to produce raised, pimpled, and also quilted repeat trends that glittered when gilded. Leaves of finely beaten gold to be pressed top top a tacky mordant (adhesive compound) or over wet bole (reddish brown planet pigment) that provided greater warmth and also depth once the gilded areas were burnished.

Colours were used with sable pen in successive vast sweeps or washes that semitransparent tempera. Those dried quickly, staying clear of the subtle tonal gradations feasible with watercolour washes or oil paint; results of shaded modelling because of this had come be obtained by a crosshatching an approach of fine brush strokes. According to the Italian artist Cennino Cennini, the early on Renaissance tempera painters laid the colour washes throughout a completely modelled monochrome underpainting in terre vert (olive-green pigment), a method later developed into the combined mediums method of tempera underpainting adhered to by transparent oil glazes.

The luminous gesso base of a tempera painting, combined with the cumulative impact of overlaid colour washes, produces a distinctive depth and intensity that colour. Tempera paints dry lighter in value, however their original tonality deserve to be revived by succeeding waxing or varnishing. Other characteristic qualities of a tempera painting, resulting from its fast-drying property and also disciplined technique, room its steely lines and crisp edges, its meticulous detail and rich direct textures, and its overall emphasis top top a decorative flat pattern that bold colour masses.

The good Byzantine legacy of tempera paint was occurred in Italy in the 13th and 14th centuries by Duccio di Buoninsegna and also Giotto. Your flattened snapshot space, generously enriched through fields and textures of gold leaf, was prolonged by the Renaissance depth perspectives in the paints of Giovanni Bellini, Piero della Francesca, Carlo Crivelli, Sandro Botticelli, and Vittore Carpaccio. By the time, oil paint was already challenging the best of tempera, Botticelli and some that his contemporaries apparently adding oil come the tempera emulsion or overglazing the in oil colour.

Following the prominence of the oil medium during succeeding durations of west painting, the 20th century witnessed a renewal of tempera methods by together U.S. Artists as Ben Shahn, Andrew Wyeth, and also Jacob Lawrence and by the British artist Edward Wadsworth and also Lucian Freud. It would probably additionally have been the medium of the later on hard-edge summary painters, had the new acrylic resin paints no proved much more easily and also quickly handled.

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This short article was many recently revised and updated by Naomi Blumberg, Assistant Editor.