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Triptych

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Preparing the panel

The bare wood of the panel and mouldings would be sealed with a several coats of animal glue size (to reduce the absorbency of the wood), and allowed to dry between each application. Gesso grosso - a coarse paste formed from grinding dried gypsum (calcium sulphate) with glue size - would then be spread over the flat surfaces, allowed to dry and scraped down to an even level. Then gesso sottile would be applied, formed by slaking raw gypsum in water, drying and grinding it and then adding it to warm glue size. The warm gesso sottile would be applied to the flat surfaces and mouldings.

Cennino Cennini advised that eight layers of gesso should be applied (at least to the flat surfaces), brushing the gesso in a different direction each time and not allowing the coats to dry out too much before applying the next layer. Once the final layer had been applied the panel would be left to dry and harden for at least two days. It would then be scraped down with a metal scaper.

To achieve the ivory-smooth surface required in a painting with gilding, Cennini suggested rubbing powdered charcoal over the surface prior to the scraping process, so that any hollows would appear black against the flat white surface. Finally, the mouldings would be scraped to ensure the crispness of detail was maintained.

Popular books in 14th century Florence - The Craftsman's Handbook

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Learn about the making of the Daddi Triptych

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