The Craftsman’s Handbook, Il Libro dell’Arte, by Cennino Cennini is a compact but useful book for the medieval artist. In this book, Cennini describes a variety of techniques and tips for the making of pigments, the preparation of panels, gilding, and other techniques.
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A few years ago, I was frequenting the Cleveland Museum of Art Library to visit a book. I was researching construction of historical panel paintings and “Let the Material Talk” was one of the most thoroughly researched and detailed analyses of a specific set of paintings from the Cologne region. I did finally purchase this book, and continue to refer to it frequently.
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Over the past several years, I have been studying the process of historical paintings. This particular painting was made in conjunction with Pearce Arts, and we took turns working on various portions of it. Here are the steps to this final painting:
An oak board was obtained for the panel, and cut to size.
3 coats of rabbitskin glue were brushed on to the panel. Because this will gel at room temperature, the glue needs to be kept in a double boiler when applying. A piece of linen was soaked in RSG and placed atop the board. This was left to dry.
Plaster was slaked to a silky finish, mixed with RSG and water in a double boiler, and 8 coats of slaked plaster were applied.
The surface was pounced with charcoal and scraped smooth.
The design was transferred to the surface and inked.
The areas which would take gold were prepared with size.
2 layers of gold leaf were applied.
Egg tempera was prepared with pigment and applied.
Oil paint was prepared as a second layer atop the egg tempera.
Final details were added.
The frame was prepared and gilded.