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Tempera

Giotto di Bondone
Ognissanti Madonna, c.1310

Tempera on panel
325 x 204 cm (128 x 80 in.)
Uffizi Gallery, Florence

Tempera is a paint medium consisting of pigment and a binding agent, most commonly egg yolk. It has been used since ancient times and played a significant role in the creation of Greek and Roman Orthodox icons, as well as Italian masterpieces of the 15th century. In the production of egg tempera paint, powdered pigment and distilled water are combined with egg yolk, which acts as a binder to hold the pigment together. This water-soluble paint dries quickly, enabling artists to apply multiple layers and enhancing its durability while reducing the likelihood of cracking. The resulting colors have an opaque finish.

Giotto di Bondone, an Italian painter, stands as the foremost reference for tempera techniques. Widely recognized as one of the early masters of tempera painting, Giotto's works exemplify the skill and artistry of this medium. Painted in collaboration with other artists between 1302 and 1307, his frescoes in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, Italy, showcase his exceptional use of tempera to create emotionally expressive and visually stunning scenes. Giotto's contributions to the development of tempera painting and his lasting impact on art history make him an excellent choice for highlighting the significance of this medium.

While contemporary artists often prefer other mediums like oil or acrylic paint, some embrace tempera for its distinctive qualities, constraints, and historical significance. Dutch artist Robert Zandvliet predominantly employs egg tempera in his body of work, exploring subjects ranging from abstracted landscapes to everyday objects. He believes that texture is integral to his artistry, and tempera allows him to meticulously achieve this effect. With its quick-drying technique and ability to accentuate brushstrokes, tempera enables Zandvliet to layer his paintings, resulting in rich depth without compromising transparency.

Robert Zandvliet
Untitled, 2020
Egg tempera on linen
63 x 72 cm (24.8 x 28.3 in.)
Courtesy of the artist and Peter Blum Gallery, New York

Related categories

Painting

Watercolor

Canvas

Chiaroscuro

Abstract Painting

Everyday Objects

Collaboration

Media Study

(Inspired by) Old Masters

Color Study

Abstraction

Layers

Acrylic Paint

Oil Paint

Textured Surface

(Inspired by) Ancient Culture

15th Century Art

Abstract Landscape Painting

Soft and Meticulous Brushstrokes

Triptych

Renaissance Art