Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Session 8: Medieval Art - egg tempera paint

The Middle ages/medieval period is well known for its art, and its famous artists who used all sorts of media.

One of the common types of paint used in the Medieval period was tempera. Tempera is paint made of ground up pigment (any natural substance that has a colour) mixed with a binding agent, such as egg yolk.

This way of making paint was known and used in ancient times, but it was particularly common in paintings from the late middle ages. We know this because egg tempera is a long lasting paint and there are many surviving examples.

The colours in egg tempera remain the same over many years, so the egg tempera paintings we can see now are almost as the artist painted them.

The most common way of using egg tempera in Europe was to paint on wooden panels. Egg tempera was used in this way by artists such as Michelangelo and Giotto. Many of the paintings that have survived show religious scenes, but medieval artists painted all sorts of subjects.

 How to make egg tempera. We'll be doing something similar in our session - but perhaps a little less perfect!


Giotto is an Italian painter and architect from the late middle ages/renaissance period. He is famed for sending a painting of a perfect circle to the Pope. Why don't you have a try - Use Nicole Collins: Giotto's O: for inspiration.

*For older/less sensitive children* there is an interesting BBC report dated December 2013 at the link below. It describes how medieval wall paintings that had been hidden for years were discovered behind the lime plaster in a church in Wales. Some of the paintings are a little gruesome (my boys would love them!) so parents might want to check out the video first.

There are a few examples of more modern use of egg tempera paint here
along with tips on how to use egg tempera.

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