Tempera (), also known as egg tempera, is a permanent, fast-drying painting medium consisting of colored pigment
s mixed with a water-soluble binder
medium, usually glutinous material such as egg yolk
. Tempera also refers to the paintings done in this medium. Tempera paintings are very long-lasting, and examples from the first century AD still exist. Egg tempera was a primary method of painting until after 1500 when it was superseded by the invention of oil painting
. A paint consisting of pigment and binder commonly used in the United States as poster paint
is also often referred to as "tempera paint", although the binders in this paint are different from traditional tempera paint.
The term ''tempera'' is derived from the Italian
''dipingere a tempera'' ("paint in distemper
"), from the Late Latin
''distemperare'' ("mix thoroughly").
Tempera painting has been found on early Egyptian sarcophagi
decorations. Many of the Fayum mummy portraits
use tempera, sometimes in combination with encaustic
A related technique has been used also in ancient and early medieval paintings found in several caves and rock-cut temples of India. High-quality art with the help of tempera was created in Bagh Caves
between the late 4th and 10th centuries and in the 7th century in Ravan Chhaya rock shelter, Orissa.
The murals of the 3rd century Dura-Europos synagogue
were created in tempera.
The art technique
was known from the classical world, where it appears to have taken over from encaustic painting
and was the main medium used for panel painting
and illuminated manuscript
s in the Byzantine
world and Medieval
and Early Renaissance
Europe. Tempera painting was the primary panel painting medium for nearly every painter in the European Medieval and Early renaissance period up to 1500. For example, most surviving panel paintings attributed to Michelangelo
are executed in egg tempera, an exception being his ''Doni Tondo
'' which uses both tempera and oil paint.
, which may have originated in Afghanistan
between the 5th and 9th centuries and migrated westward in the Middle Ages eventually superseded tempera. Oil replaced tempera as the principal medium used for creating artwork during the 15th century in Early Netherlandish painting
in northern Europe. Around 1500, oil paint replaced tempera in Italy. In the 19th and 20th centuries, there were intermittent revivals of tempera technique in Western art, among the Pre-Raphaelites
, Social Realists
, and others. Tempera painting continues to be used in Greece and Russia where it is the traditional medium for Orthodox icons
Tempera is traditionally created by hand-grinding dry powdered pigment
s into a binding agent
or ''medium'', such as egg yolk, milk (in the form of casein
) and a variety of plant gums.
The most common form of classical tempera painting is "egg tempera". For this form most often only the contents of the egg yolk
is used. The white of the egg
and the membrane of the yolk are discarded (the membrane of the yolk is dangled over a receptacle and punctured to drain off the liquid inside). Egg yolk is rarely used by itself with pigment; it dries almost immediately and can crack when it is dry. Some agent is always added, in variable proportions. One recipe calls for vinegar, but only in small amounts. A few drops of vinegar will preserve the solution for a week. (1:3 , 3 parts water, 1 part yolk; other recipes suggest white wine (1 part yolk, 2 parts wine). Some schools of egg tempera use various mixtures of egg yolk and water.
Powdered pigment, or pigment that has been ground in distilled water, is placed onto a palette or bowl and mixed with a roughly equal volume of the binder. Some pigments require slightly more binder, some require less.
When used to paint icons on church walls, liquid myrrh
is sometimes added to the mixture to give the paint a pleasing odor, particularly as worshipers may find the egg tempera somewhat pungent for quite some time after completion. The paint mixture has to be constantly adjusted to maintain a balance between a "greasy" and "watery" consistency by adjusting the amount of water and yolk. As tempera dries, the artist will add more water to preserve the consistency and to balance the thickening of the yolk on contact with air. Once prepared, the paint cannot be stored. Egg tempera is water-resistant, but not waterproof. Different preparations use the egg white or the whole egg for a different effect. Other additives such as oil and wax emulsions can modify the medium. Egg tempera is not a flexible paint and requires stiff boards; painting on canvas
will cause cracks to form and chips of paint to fall off.
Adding oil in no more than a 1:1 ratio with the egg yolk by volume produces a water-soluble medium with many of the color effects of oil paint, although it cannot be painted thickly.
Some of the pigments used by medieval painters, such as cinnabar
(contains mercury), orpiment
(contains arsenic), or lead white
(contains lead) are highly toxic. Most artists today use modern synthetic pigments, which are less toxic but have similar color
properties to the older pigments. Even so, many (if not most) modern pigments are still dangerous unless certain precautions are taken; these include keeping pigments wet in storage to avoid breathing their dust.
Tempera paint dries rapidly. It is normally applied in thin, semi-opaque or transparent layers. Tempera painting allows for great precision when used with traditional techniques that require the application of numerous small brush strokes applied in a cross-hatching
technique. When dry, it produces a smooth matte
finish. Because it cannot be applied in thick layers as oil paints can, tempera paintings rarely have the deep color saturation
that oil paintings can achieve because it can hold less pigment (lower pigment load). In this respect, the colors of an unvarnished tempera painting resemble a pastel
, although the color deepens if a varnish
is applied. On the other hand, tempera colors do not change over time, whereas oil paints darken, yellow, and become transparent with age.
Tempera adheres best to an absorbent ground that has a lower oil content than the tempera binder used (the traditional rule of thumb is ''"fat over lean"'', and never the other way around). The ground traditionally used is inflexible Italian gesso
, and the substrate is usually rigid as well. Historically wood panels were used as the substrate, and more recently un-tempered masonite
or medium density fiberboard
(MDF) have been employed; heavy paper is also used.
Apart from the traditional process of mixing pigment with egg yolk, new methods include egg tempera sold in tubes by manufacturers such as Sennelier and Daler-Rowney. These paints do contain a slight amount of oil to enhance durability within the container. Marc Chagall
used Sennelier egg tempera tube paints extensively.
Although tempera has been out of favor since the Late Renaissance and Baroque
eras, it has been periodically rediscovered by later artists such as William Blake
, the Nazarenes
, the Pre-Raphaelites
, and Joseph Southall
. The 20th century saw a significant revival of tempera. European painters who worked with tempera include Giorgio de Chirico
, Otto Dix
, Eliot Hodgkin
, Pyke Koch
and Pietro Annigoni
, who used an emulsion of egg yolks, stand oil and varnish.
Spanish surrealist painter, Remedios Varo
, worked extensively in egg tempera.
Revival in 20th-century American art
The tempera medium was used by American artists such as the Regionalist
s Andrew Wyeth
, Thomas Hart Benton
and his student Roger Medearis
; expressionists Ben Shahn
, Mitchell Siporin
and John Langley Howard
, magic realists George Tooker
, Paul Cadmus
, Jared French
, Julia Thecla
and Louise E. Marianetti, realist painter David Hanna
; Art Students League of New York
instructors Kenneth Hayes Miller
and William C. Palmer
, Social Realists Kyra Markham
, Isabel Bishop
, Reginald Marsh
, and Noel Rockmore
, Edward Laning
, Anton Refregier
, Jacob Lawrence
, Rudolph F. Zallinger
, Robert Vickrey
, Peter Hurd
, and science fiction
artist John Schoenherr
, notable as the cover artist of ''Dune
20th-century Indian art
In the early part of the 20th century, a large number of Indian artists, notably of Bengal school
took up tempera as one of their primary media of expression. Artists such as Gaganendranath Tagore
, Asit Kumar Haldar
, Abanindranath Tagore
, Nandalal Bose
, Kalipada Ghoshal
and Sughra Rababi
were foremost. After the 1950s, artists such as Jamini Roy
and Ganesh Pyne
established tempera as a medium for the new age artists of India.
In contemporary art
Other practicing tempera artists include Philip Aziz
, Ernst Fuchs
, Antonio Roybal
, George Huszar, Donald Jackson
, Tim Lowly
, Altoon Sultan
, Shaul Shats
, Sandro Chia
, Alex Colville
, Robert Vickrey
, Andrew Wyeth
, Andrew Grassie
, and Ganesh Pyne
File:Spanish - Altar Frontal with Christ in Majesty and the Life of Saint Martin - Walters 371188.jpg|Spanish, ''Altar Frontal with Christ in Majesty and the Life of Saint Martin'', 1250, The Walters Art Museum
File:Madonna71.jpg|Guido da Siena, ''Madonna'', Church of San Regolo, Siena, tempera and gold on panel, 1285–1295
File:Duccio.The-Madonna-and-Child-with-Saints-149.jpg|Duccio, ''Madonna and Child with saints'' polyptych, tempera and gold on wood, 1311–1318
File:Bernardo Daddi - Christ Enthroned with Saints Sebastian, Leo, Alexander, Peregrine, Philip, Rufinianus, Justa, Concordius, and Decentius.jpg|Bernardo Daddi, ''Christ Enthroned with Saints Sebastian, Leo, Alexander, Peregrine, Philip, Rufianiaus, Justa, Concordius and Decentius'', 14th century
File:Virgin and child with four saints--detail--cortona 1435.jpg|Sassetta, detail of ''Virgin and Child with Four Saints'', tempera on wood, 1435
Carlo crivelli, madonna di macerata, 1470-73 ca. 01.jpg|Carlo Crivelli, Madonna with Child, tempera on wood, transferred to canvas, 1470
File:Sandro Botticelli - La nascita di Venere - Google Art Project - edited.jpg|Sandro Botticelli, ''The Birth of Venus'', tempera on canvas, c. 1486
File:Lorenzo d'Alessandro da San Severino - The Crucifixion; Saint Michael - Walters 37496.jpg|Lorenzo d'Alessandro, ''The Crucifixion; Saint Michael'', ca. 1480–1490, The Walters Art Museum
File:Sandro botticelli e bottega, madonna col bambino e san giovannino in un tondo, 1490-1500 ca. 01.JPG|Sandro Botticelli, tempera on panel, 1490–1500
File:Antonio da Fabriano II - Saint Jerome in His Study - Walters 37439.jpg|Antonio da Fabriano, ''Saint Jerome in His Study'', 1541, The Walters Art Museum
File:Marianne Stokes Melisande.jpg|Marianne Stokes, ''Melisande'', tempera on canvas, 1895–1898
*Altoon Sultan, ''The Luminous Brush: Painting With Egg Tempera'', Watson-Guptill Publications, New York 1999.
*Richard J. Boyle, Richard Newman, Hilton Brown: Milk and Eggs: The American Revival of Tempera Painting, 1930-1950 Brandywine River Museum Staff, Akron Art Museum Staff (0-295-98190-3) Softcover, University of Washington Press
*Lara Broecke,'Cennino Cennini's ''Il Libro dell'Arte'': a New English Translation and Commentary with Italian Transcription', Archetype Publications 2015.
*Daniel V. Thompson, Jr., ''Materials and Techniques of Medieval Painting'', Dover: explanation and expansion on Cennini's works
*Daniel V. Thompson, Jr. ''The Practice of Tempera Painting: Materials and Methods'', Dover Publications, Inc. 1962..
*Chifan C. Alexandru, " Symbol of hand in fine arts", Artes Publication 2013, Iaşi, Romania,
Egg Tempera PaintingThe Society of Tempera PaintersMaking Egg TemperaTempera Paintings on Cloth in EnglandEgg Tempera Resources
Category:Visual arts materials
Category:Eggs in culture
Category:Italian words and phrases