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I read a while back that since the venetian school was painting on linen, and not wood, that they had to put less coats of size and gesso on their canvases. Something along the lines of 6-9 coats. These size coats and gesso coats (gesso sutile) were done thinly too. This was done so that the size and gesso wouldnt crack due to the flexibility of the canvas. I also read that this was also one of the reasons they went thicker with their paint. The thicker paint served as an extra protection from the atmosphere.
Are 6-9 coats on linen fine?
Move this whole section up, swapping places with the section above it.
I will respond in greater detail later but first want to
state that I find this number of size and gesso layers very unlikely. 6-7 layers of gesso covering 2-3 layers of size is sufficient for a wooden panel, as long as there is not going to be heavily punched water gilding. Such a
large amount of gesso would be extremely brittle on a fabric support. Where did
you read about this?
I have to search for it through the books I have because I cant remember the source right now. Thanks for taking the time to answer. I am looking forward to what else you have to add on.
I will wait until you reply with references before responding. Thanks.
I wish I could. I went back to try and find something but i couldnt. The closes thing was the 6 coats for wood in the Meyer book refering to the cennini method. Im starting think that the number 6-9 might have been for panel painting and I am incorrectly mixing it with application for linen. I apologize I know these kinds of errors have to muddy up the waters heavily for conservators.
Technical art history, the study of historical manuscripts
(codicology), and the scientific examination of paintings has progressed by
leap and bounds since Mayer wrote his tome. First, I need to state that ground
preparation was more diverse than though and there could certainly be outliers.
Additionally, this heterogeneity increases when comparing one reason to another
and especially in the centuries after the 1400s. Maartje Stols-Wotlox is one of
the leaving experts in the world on European grounds for paintings. One can
also consult cross-section by others and other technical studies. I do not want
to appear to be an expert on grounds used in Venetian Renaissance painting; but
the following is my synopsis of what I have read from truly informed sources:
One or more layers of sizing, usually, animal glue, although
starch appears to have been periodically employed.
A very thin gesso ground (again starch bound gypsum is a
possibility for some). Often this ground appears to have been scraped into the
interstices of the fabric. No matter what this needed to be thin as any real
thickness would have been very brittle and likely to crack and delaminate.
This was very often covered by another layer (often termed
imprimatura, although today many think of this layer as being very transparent,
that is not always the case), often composed of pigments in oil but sometimes
clear oil. The oil containing layer served to cut the absorbency, facilitation
paint application. It also could suffuse the brittle lower ground providing
When red or dark ground come into fashion (Tintoretto and El
Greco are early users of such grounds) they were often made by sizing and then scraping on a
thin gesso ground. This was then covered with an oil containing priming, often
composed of palette scrapings.
As you progress into the mid and later 16th
century there is more heterogeneity. Some use the double ground system while
others abandon the lower, water-soluble ground for just oil grounds. Grounds
becomes even more varied as the decades and centuries progress.
The above is a massive oversimplification and I am sure that
Maartje and others could nitpick some of my over generations. However, it is
essentially what we believe about grounds from the period you mention. Additionally,
while I cannot give you the exact number ground layers that a specific Venetian
Renaissance art would use, it is highly unlikely to be the number suggested by
Sorry, I just read you last post, that number does make far more sense for panel, although it may of may not be sufficient for complicate gilding techniques.