Monday, June 18, 2018

Ancient Medium - Egg Tempera Painting, Part 6 - Care of Egg Tempera Paintings

Part 6 – Care of Egg Tempera Paintings

Since it is an organic medium, mildew can be gently wiped off with a moist cloth, applying a little physics to the genome of mold means it will disappear if the painting is placed in the sun for a few minutes and gently vacuumed with a soft brush attachment. Unlike oil, properly tempered egg and pigment will not develop the craquelure of aging on the surface as seen in old oil paintings.  Egg tempera colors are less likely to yellow although certain varnishes will yellow on egg tempera as on oil.  Egg tempera will also not fade as much as oil as long as lightfast pigments are used just as with oil.

Sustainability of the Substrate

In a recent article on egg tempera painting the author failed to mention that as important as the medium is to the painting, so is the substrate on which the painting is painted.  Proper preparation of the panels includes applying hide glue, tempering of the paint (grinding the egg mixture with the pigment) and the final curing all contribute to the longevity of an egg tempera painting resulting in few if any problems.  The environment in which the painting exists must also be considered.  Will addressing these issues completely protect a painting?  Probably not entirely, but they will greatly enhance the life of the painting. Consider what had to be done to bring two Leonardo da Vinci oil paintings to this country – Ginevra de’ Benci from Liechtenstein and Mona Lisa from France, both painted over 500 years ago.  Both had to adhere to elaborate environmental control procedures to prevent damage. Ginevra de’ Benci was the more difficult as it had resided in the same gallery of a castle in Liechtenstein for centuries.  The National Gallery in Washington, D.C. had their handler place a special climate-controlled case on the floor of the gallery in the castle directly below where the painting had hung for centuries.  The case was left open for days to a week before the painting was carefully packed and the controls set on the case.  It was then transported by air, but arrived on the east coast of the U.S. during a winter blizzard.  The plane was diverted which set all the wheels in motion for the case could not be opened in customs.  It was allowed to change to a new flight undisturbed.  When the painting arrived in Washington, D.C. the case was placed on the floor of the gallery where the painting would then reside and the controls were set to gradually adjust to the climate of the painting’s new home before the case could be opened and the painting hung in its new home.

Next Up, Part 7 – Conclusion:  Techniques – Craft as much as Fine Art!  (on June 18)