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Egg tempera: the queen of paint!

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If one had to think to a “queen of paint” this cannot but be egg tempera for its ultra centuries-old history,for the masterpieces that have been painted with it,and for the amazing ability to resist to the ravages of time. Just thinking about to the frescoes of Scrovegni Chapel painted by “someone called  Giotto” more than six hundred years ago, and take a look how good they are; you can really believe that “so-called masterpieces” of contemporany art may have such capacity to face the flow of time and appear still youthful and perky? I doubt very much! What is egg tempera and when was born? We have reports about tempera paintings since the Estrucan period,but even Greeks and Romans knew about it and used this ancient technique. Can you picture Byzantine Icons so ancient and fascinating? Well,they are paint mainly with egg tempera,but the period of main splendour about of “queen of paint” will be since the Renaissance.To be honest Renaissance artists didn’t use egg tempera completely pure,but satisfying the alchimist that exists in every real artist,became accustomed to mix with eggs, oil,essences and varnishes. These alchemies were called “an emulsion” inasmuch as they had the tendecy to mix several elements not easy to amalgamate.Tempera of artists of fifteenth century has been passed down by painter and writer Cennino Cennini (1370-1440) that with his ” Book of Art” described how painters of his time ,prepared colours and supports to paint at best. Considering that you can paint with tempera just by adding egg yolk,(egg white must be discarded) during the centuries have been composed several dozen recipes “an emulsion”,that is,by adding to egg yolk other ingredients in order to improve the yield of paint and its lasting over time! Depending on the various recipes you can create “lean tempera” and “fat tempera”,but since i am a supporter of pure egg tempera without any additions,i’m not going to talk about neither how to make repices nor how to beome alchimist. I can just say you that if you want to compose all those complicated recipes,you must have really a small alchemy laboratory, and have a lot of time. In our hectic times it would be quite complicated,if not impossible,having the time to create these time-consuming recipes; not to mention about artists which earn all their income because of painting and they must sold their paintings which then they must respect delivery times of commissions. Even so, in our times, painting with “egg tempera” has been shelved and confined as “niche paint” very rare and precious also because of its low uptake in our times. If you are curious though, and you want to try egg tempera classic and pure,well then i can say you that recipe is very simple.Take a few fresh eggs and divide perfectly and carefully white egg from the yolk because is the latter that you will need to paint. Obviously we’re dealing with an organic product and easily perishable especially at high temperatures so you will need to add to yolk a few drops of wine vinegar to keep proper preservation. Well,now you are ready to paint…uhmm…wait a minute, i forgot something…you need even to buy some powder pigments that are so expensive and really tough to prepare if you are not experienced and in this case also you need a small laboratory…so what to do? Should you give up the dream to feel like an ancient painter and painting with egg tempera? Not on your life! Fortunately the firms that make items for artists have not been watching and some of them really prestigious and rich in experiences, have decided to bring back “in fashion” egg tempera. The famous and ancient french firm Sennelier has put on the market a kind of egg tempera not pure but with emulsion in addiction, indeed they added to yolk not-yellowing vegetable oil along with  gum arabic and natural balms. On the other hand if you want to try egg tempera without any addition you can find the colours made by english firm Daler-Rowney that has put on the market tubes from 22 ml although in truth,lately they are not easily findable. It would be then, egg tempera made by italian firm Zecchi from Florence, that put on sale tubes from 35 ml which contain the old traditional recipe made by Cennini, in fact it takes its name from him. If you are worrying on how to properly dilute egg tempera that you find in tubes,you shouldn’t worry at all, because you’ll need just simple water. What supports can you use to paint with this technique? It fits to everything, from paper to canvas,but gives its best on the wood,wooden boards and basically in all hard boards,but make sure you to prepare the fund before painting.Brushes are good the ones that you use for oil paint or acrylic; i recommend you to buy always both round and flat,as well as the ones with soft bristle and the hard bristle too.Well,we come to the end of article,i really hope that it can be useful and, as always,i wish you good paint and see you soon.          

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