Basic Gilding with Acrylic Gesso
By Madame Elizabeth de Nevell
All the tastes and purposes that medieval painting served made the use of metals an integral part of its technique. Of all metals used in period illumination, gold was the most significant. Not only for its associations, its power to suggest richness and splendor, not only for its color, not only for its luster and permanence, but for all of then together. In fact the term "illumination" means "to decorate with gold" and has evolved over time to it’s broader usage of the medieval illustrated page. The medieval painter and/or illuminator along with his patrons joined in an enthusiasm for this precious metal that resulted in some of the most charming effects in the painting of the Middle Ages.
Types of Gold
A Modern Acrylic Gesso for Illumination
"Gesso" is a generic term traditionally used to describe any plaster based ground used for priming or preparing surfaces to be painted, "Gilding Base" is also another descriptive term. Varieties of gesso recipes evolved for specific purposes, one of that was a base to which gold leaf would adhere and burnish up. Modern acrylic gesso is made for priming canvases and other surfaces, but should NOT be confused as a substitute for the type of traditional gilding base. To create the gesso used in this class a modern recipe passed down by Meisterin Katarina Helene von Schönborn, OL to her students was used.
Steps for a project with gilding
Bibliography & Recommended Reading
1. De Hamel; “Illuminated Manuscripts”; Phaidon Press Limited, Longdon, 2000
2. Grafe, Joyce; “Secreta: Three meathods of Laying gold leaf”; Taplinger Publishing Company, New York, 1985
3. Schultz, Helen; “A Modern Spin on Traditional Gesso”, http://meisterin.katarina.home.insightbb.com/gesso.html, accesses January 4, 2003
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