Tempera - photo 1


Tempera is not just a painting medium but a historical bridge connecting artists across millennia. Originating over three thousand years ago, this method has been a pivotal part of artistic expression, particularly before the advent of oil paints.

At its core, Tempera involves creating an emulsion of pigment, water, and a binding agent. Traditionally, artists used natural ingredients like egg yolk, whole eggs, and even beer or vinegar to bind the pigments. In the hands of the masters, this medium transformed into timeless art pieces, such as Sandro Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” and Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.” These masterpieces, created during the Early Renaissance, showcase tempera's potential for exquisite detail and enduring quality.

The technique of tempera painting demands precision and patience. Artists meticulously applied thin layers of this fast-drying medium, often employing a cross-hatching technique to achieve a smooth, matte finish. Unlike oil paintings, tempera’s colors remain consistent over time, offering a unique, pastel-like appearance without the risk of darkening or yellowing. However, this medium isn’t without its limitations; it is less flexible than oil paints and requires a rigid surface like wood panels to prevent cracking.

The influence of tempera extends beyond individual artworks. It has been the traditional medium for Orthodox icons in Greece and Russia and played a significant role in the flourishing of the Sienese school and the early Renaissance era. Artists like Michelangelo, Raphael, and Correggio explored its potential, contributing to its rich legacy.

For art collectors and antique enthusiasts, tempera paintings are not just historical artifacts but symbols of an era where artists blended innovation with tradition. Their preservation and appreciation connect us to the artistic dialogues of the past, reminding us of the enduring nature of human creativity.

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Country: Ancient Egypt, Asia, Europe
Start of the period: I millennium BC