THATKid Tuesday: Tempera!

THATKid Tuesday is a dose of Art History terms for kids, simplified and illustrated. These terms are culled from the glossary found in our Kid Packs, booklets you receive on Luxe Hunts that offer travelling families exercises. I made one for families visiting London and Paris, b/c as a mother, I’ve really just wanted to have a glass of wine at the end of a lovely day touristing and have found it useful to give Storsh and Balthazar these exercises at restaurants when travelling. The Kid Packs have art fun such as a Botticelli spot-the-difference, Michelangelo connect-the-dots, some da Vinci Decoding (do you know he kept his journal in a secret language?!!) or even some color-in exercises for smaller siblings.

This time we’re going to look at Tempera!

If this has got you thinking of dinner, you’re probably thinking of tempura…

st francis feeding the birds
a detail from Giotto’s Stigmatization of St Francis (1300), using Egg Tempera, au Louvre (did you know our Christmas Nativity dates to St Francis and his love of animals?

Sadly for these artists, tempera is not a food but a method of painting. Artists would grind powdered pigments (colours) into a binding agent such as egg and use this to paint with. Pieces painted in this way, also known as Tempera paintings, were very long-lasting.

Madonna and baby christ
Duccio’s Madonna & Child, 1290-1300, Met (NYC)

This example of a Tempera painting, Duccio’s Madonna and Child, was painted on wood around 1300. This was the main medium used in Classical and Medieval art until it was replaced in Europe by oil painting around 1500. When used for paintings in churches, extra material was sometimes added to give the paint a nice smell. Without this the egg tempera could smell quite bad for some time! At times during the 19th and 20th Centuries some artists began to use Tempera again and it continued to be the required method for Orthodox Icon painting.

Questions or thoughts about Tempera? Just post below!

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