On Mon, January 31, 2005 22:10, Tim Bray said:
>>in the middle ages I'm not sure they would have dreamed of putting paint
>>directly on wood.
> Hmmm... gonna have to check on that. I'm pretty sure I have seen some
> carved work where paint (usually red) was applied to the ground to make
> tracery stand out better.
There are a few viking age pieces of wood that didn't seem to have paint
on them. The rest seem to have paint right on the wood.
> Also we should check on polychromed wood statues, and see if all of them
> were gessoed first or not. Some of the later period work, like
> Reimanschneider, is so deeply carved it's hard to imagine gessoing it.
> And how about those Scandinavian carved and painted objects? I doubt the
> Vikings gessoed their shields, for instance.
Not that I have seen... and I see lots of wooden pieces in color on the
Vikings! CD-Rom that show color in the carvings.
> Panel painting I will grant you was probably seldom, if ever, done
> on bare wood. But there were lots of other wooden objects that received
> paint, and I very much doubt they were all gessoed first. Panel painting
> itself is only a late-medieval art form.
If by late-medieval you mean after the egyptians and even into the 6th
Century, perhaps... Panel painting has been happening for a very very very
long time. See byzantine icon paintings for a very good selection of
techniques that were employed. The Getty museum in LA has an excellent
collection of byzantine icons from early through middle into late period.
Then there are the large paintings from later period. Interestingly
enough, some of the more famous paintings have been lifted off the wooden
panels and placed onto canvas in the distant past.
It is also interesting to see the similarities of putting a ground onto a
wood panel and putting a ground onto a canvas panel. The goal was to make
a very very smooth surface to work with that would stay smooth over the
>>So... the question is... how often would chests NOT be painted... and,
>>what was the difference in status between a painted v. non-painted chest?
> A lot of carved chests seem to have received paint only to highlight the
> carving - the plain surfaces may have been left natural. And chests were
> possessed by all levels of society; the ones at the lower levels were
> undoubtedly less decorated. Painting was a way of increasing the value of
> an object.
This is mostly because wood was their plastic. Everything that was made at
that time was made with either wood or dirt (clay and glass).
>> (My understanding is that bare wood is more of an Victorian construct
>> and would not have necessarily met with medieval tastes...).
> Nevertheless, many 15th c. Flemish paintings of interiors clearly show
> unpainted wooden furniture, even in very high-class surroundings.
... They got the library at Alexandria, they aren't getting mine!