Tempera painting, the method in which colors are mixed with some binding material other than oil (primarily egg yolk), is the earliest type of painting known to man. The wall paintings of ancient Egypt and Babylon are tempera, as are many of the paintings of Giotto, Lippi, Botticelli, Raphael, Titian, Tintoretto, and many other masters. But in spite of the time-proven excellence of this technique — which boasts many clear advantages over oil paint — it does not receive the degree of attention from modern painters that it deserves.
Part of the explanation for this neglect, surely, is the absence of sufficient information about the materials and procedures involved in tempera painting. The present volume, in fact, is virtually the only complete, authoritative, step-by-step treatment of the subject in the English language, D.V. Thompson wrote this book after an exhaustive study, over many years, of countless medieval and Renaissance manuscripts in the British Museum and elsewhere, and is unquestionably the world's leading authority on tempera materials and processes.
Beginning with an introductory chapter on the uses and limitations of tempera, the author covers such topics as the choice of material for the panel; propensities of various woods; preparing the panel for gilding; making the gesso mixture; methods of applying the gesso; planning the design of a tempera painting; use of tinted papers; application of metals to the panel; tools for gliding; handling and laying gold; combination gold and silver leafing; pigments and brushes; choice of palette; mixing the tempera; tempering and handling the colors; techniques of the actual painting; mordant gilding; permanence of tempera painting; varnishing; and artificial emulsion painting. The drawings and diagrams, illustrating the various materials and techniques, infinitely increase the clarity of the discussions.
As a careful exposition of all aspects of authentic tempera painting, including many of the possible modern uses for this ancient method, this book actually stands alone. No one who is interested in tempera painting as a serious pursuit can afford to be without it.