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Alphabe Thursday E is for Egg, shell, white and yolk.

December 19, 2013


Oh Dear … my new found wealth of colour related letters have have failed me again! And so soon!  Although of late I have managed to turn the post around and find some aesthetic credibility. This time I am clutching at straws.

At first I thought of E is for Eggshell … the colour of the emulsion paint my sisters and I were charged with to paint the outside toilet.We, with brushes much too large for our tiny hands daubed everything in sight including spiders as they scurried away and Mother’s michaelmas daisies that didn’t do too much to elevate our outside lav from beyond an old shed. Neither did our attempts at decoration come to that!

But all this does nothing for my fledging attempts to bring an artististic theme to my post … but all is not lost I have discovered more …

Eggs, and particularly their yolks, rather than oils, such as linseed, walnut or poppy, were used by Giotto de Bondone  the master of wall painting in 1305.  His art, like panel painting required a binding agent or tempera (Latin meaning to mix) to fix the pigment.  In Italy egg remained the favoured binding agent; the pigment was mixed with the yolk and a little water to an emulsion that dried to a opaque and durable finish.

Egg tempera is quick drying so the artist had to be well prepared and work quickly when blending colours.  Dried egg tempera in time becomes virtually waterproof, also, if skillfully blended would discolour less than oil paints.  It is told that the colours of the medieval tempera panels are more vivid today than those of the Renaissance oils.

However, Philip Ball in Bright Earth the invention of colour goes on to say that the paint doesn’t have the flexibility of oils so has the tendency to crack as the wooden panel swells or shrinks when the weather changes.

Cennini in his Craftsman’s handbook says how the white of an egg is used when grinding gold and silver for use as colour, ‘take 10 or 20 leaves of fine gold and work with some well beaten white of an egg’ this would be used to make a ‘tree of Paradise’ While the yolk is not only used to waterproof frescoes it is used mix with different coloured pigments to paint the effect of rich brocades and velvets.

alphabet thursday

10 Comments leave one →
  1. December 19, 2013 9:06 pm

    What a creative extension of artists’ interest in egg. And, here, I thought you were just going to stop with the color eggshell.

  2. December 20, 2013 1:28 pm


  3. December 20, 2013 4:42 pm

    I wonder if that is why frescoes are all crackled? Well, they are old… Very interesting! I knew painters from centuries ago mixed natural materials together to make their paints, but an egg! Happy Holidays! {:-Deb

  4. Karen S. permalink
    December 20, 2013 6:59 pm

    Extra eggsellent!

  5. January 3, 2014 6:19 am

    Who knew eggs had such exciting uses!?!?!

    Excellent post for the letter “E”!

    Thanks for linking.



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