ArtLex Art Dictionary




ttempera and temper - A paint and process involving an emulsion of oil and water. It was in use before the invention of oil paints. Traditionally it involves an egg emulsion; thus the term egg tempera. The pigments or colors are mixed with an emulsion of egg yolks (removed from their sacs) or of size, rather than oil, and can be thinned and solved with water. Also known as egg tempera and temper. A varnish for tempera paints, called glair may be prepared by mixing egg whites with a little water, then beating them, and applying once the bubbles are gone.

Because some of its ingredients are organic, tempera may spoil, and get very smelly. Claims have been made that when any one of the following substances are added, it reverses the growth of bacteria in tempera: benzoate of soda, bath salts, table salt, soap or cleanser such as 409, alcohol or bleach (one capful per gallon of tempera).

Examples of painting with tempera:



see thumbnail to rightSimone Martini (Italian, c. 1284-1344), Madonna from the Annunciation, 1340-1344, tempera on wood panel, 12 x 8 1/2 inches (30.5 x 21.5 cm), State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia. See Gothic and Middle Ages.



see thumbnail to leftGiovanni Bellini (Italian, 1430?-1516), Christ's Blessing, 1460, tempera on wood panel, Louvre. Also see Renaissance.



Giovanni Bellini (Italian, 1430?-1516), The Lamentation over the Body of Christ, 1500, tempera on wood panel, Uffizi. See Renaissance.



see thumbnail to rightSandro Botticelli (Italian, 1445-1510), The Adoration of the Magi, 1470-75, tempera on wood panel, 111 x 134 cm, Uffizi, Florence. See Renaissance.



Sandro Botticelli, Madonna of the Magnificat, c.1485, tempera on wood panel, diameter 118 cm, Uffizi, Florence. See tondo.




see thumbnail to leftSandro Botticelli (Italian, 1444-1510), Birth of Venus, c. 1485-86, painted for the villa of Lorenzo di Pierfrancesco de' Medici at Castello, tempera on wood panel, 67 7/8 x 109 5/8 inches (172.5 x 278.5 cm), now in the Uffizi, Florence.



Sandro Botticelli, The Cestello Annunciation, c. 1489, tempera on wood panel, 150 x 156 cm, Uffizi, Florence.



Sebastiano Mainardi (Italian, 1450-1513), Madonna and Child with Saint John and Three Angels, c. 1500, tempera on wood panel, 33 3/4 x 33 3/4 inches, Birmingham Museum of Art.




see thumbnail to rightLeonardo da Vinci (Italian, 1452-1519), Madonna and Child (Madonna Litta), c. 1490-91, tempera on canvas, transferred from panel, 16 1/2 x 13 inches (42 x 33 cm), Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia. See Renaissance.



Michelangelo Buonarotti (Italian, 1475-1564), The Holy Family with the infant St. John the Baptist (the Doni Tondo), c. 1503-05, tempera on wood panel, diameter 47 inches (120 cm), Uffizi, Florence. Also see High Renaissance and tondo.




see thumbnail to leftRaffaello Sanzio "Raphael" (Italian, 1483-1520), Madonna and Child (Madonna Conestabile), 1502/3, tempera on canvas (transferred from panel), 7 x 7 inches (17.5 x 18 cm), State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia. See tondo.



see thumbnail to rightPablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881-1973), Sleeping Peasants, 1919, tempera, watercolor and pencil on paper, 12 1/4 x 19 1/4 inches (31.1 x 48.9 cm), Museum of Modern Art, NY.





see thumbnail to leftBen Shahn (American, born Lithuania, 1898-1969), Scorn, 1952, tempera paint on paper, 39 x 25 1/4 inches, Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO. See Jewish art.



Jacob Lawrence (American, 1917-2000), The Library, 1960, tempera on fiberboard, 24 x 29 7/8 inches (61.0 x 75.9 cm), National Museum of American Art, Washington, DC. See Harlem Renaissance.


Andrew Wyeth (American, 1917-), Dodges Ridge, 1947, egg tempera on fiberboard, 41 x 48 inches (104.2 x 122.0 cm), National Museum of American Art, Washington, DC.





see thumbnail to rightAndrew Wyeth, Christina's World, 1948, tempera on gessoed panel, 32 1/4 x 47 3/4 inches, Museum of Modern Art, NY. See what this house — the Olson House, Cushing, Maine — looks like today.


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Also see stain removal.




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