Notebook, 1993-

Il Libro dell' Arte - Cennino D' Andrea Cennini. The Craftsman's Handbook. The Italian "Il Libro dell' Arte." Translated by Daniel V. Thompson, Jr. New York: Dover Publications, Inc. 1933, by Yale University Press.

Notes 1-50   Notes 51-124   Notes 125-162   Notes 163-283

Sixth Section - (cont.)

How You may Model on a Wall with Varnish.

You may also model on a wall . Take some liquid varnish mixed with flour, well worked up together; and model it with a pointed minever brush.

How You may Model on a Wall with Wax.
Chapter CXXX

Furthermore, you may model on a wall with melted wax and ship pitch mixed together: the two parts wax, the third, pitch. Model with a brush. Have it hot.

To get back to our previous discussion: [p. 78 in the last chapters of Sixth Section]

How to Lay Bole on Panel, and How to Temper it.
Chapter CXXXI

When you have finished modeling your ancona, get some Armenian bole,[120] and choose a good grade. Touch it to your lower lip: if you find that it sticks, that is excellent. Now you will need to know how to make the perfect tempera for gilding. Take the white of an egg in a very clean glazed porringer. Take a whisk with several branches cut even; and you beat this white as if you were beating up spinach, or a pur┌e, until the whole porringer is full of a solid foam which looks like snow. Then take an ordinary drinking glass, not too large, not quite full of good clear water; and pour it over the white in the porringer. Let it stand and distill from evening to morning. Then grind the bole with this tempera, as long as ever you can. Take a soft sponge; wash it well, and dip it in good clear water; squeeze it out; then rub lightly with this sponge, not too wet, wherever you want to gild. Then, with a good-sized minever brush, temper some of this bole, as thin as water for the first coat; and wherever you want to gild, and where you have damped down with the sponge, lay this bole all over, watching out for the breaks which the brush sometimes makes. Then wait a while; put some more of this bole into your little dish, and have the second coat stronger of color. And you lay the second coat of it in the same way. Again you let it stand for a while; then you put some more bole into the little dish, and put on the third coat as before, watching out for the breaks. Then put some more bole into the little dish, and lay the fourth coat in the same way: and in this way it gets covered with bole. Now the job should be covered up with a cloth, to shield it as far as you can from dust and sun and water.

Another Way to Temper Bole on Panel, for Gilding.
Chapter CXXXII

This tempera can also be made in another way, in grinding the bole. Take the egg white and put it on the porphyry slab, whole, as it is. [p. 79] Then have the bole powdered; wet it up in this egg white. Then grind it well and finely; and as it dries under your hands, add good clear clean water on the slab. Then when it is well ground, temper it with plain clear water, so that it runs from the brush; and lay four coats of it on your work in the same way described above. And this method will be surer for you than the other tempera as long as you have not had much experience. Cover up your ancona carefully, and protect it from dust, as I have said.

How You May Gild on Panel, with Terre-Verte.

You may do also as our forefathers used to, that is, apply canvas all over the whole ancona before you gesso; and then gild with terre-verte, grinding this terre-verte with whichever of these two kinds of tempera, which I have just taught you, you prefer.

How to Gild on Panel.

When some mild damp weather comes along, and you want to do some gilding, have this ancona laid out on two trestles. Take your feathers; sweep it off thoroughly. Take a little hook;[121] feel over the ground of the bole with a light touch. If there should be any foreign matter, or any little lump or grit, get rid of it. Take a piece of a strip of linen cloth, and burnish the bole briskly. Burnishing it also with a crook[122] would be sure to help. When you have got it burnished and cleaned up in this way, take a goblet almost full of good clean clear water, and put a little of that white-of-egg tempera into it. And if it were a trifle stale, so much the better. Mix it up thoroughly with the water in the goblet. Take a good-sized minever brush made out of the tips of the tails as I told you before; take our fine gold, and pick up the leaf carefully with a pair of tweezers or small pincers. Have a card cut in a square larger than the leaf of gold, trimmed off at each [p. 80] corner. Hold it in your left hand; and, using the brush with your right hand, wet down as much of the bole as is to receive the leaf of gold which you have in your hand. And wet it down evenly, so that there will not be any more water in one place than in another. Then carefully bring the gold up to the water on the bole; but have the gold extend a little bit beyond the card, just so that the little tip[123] of the card will not get wet. Now, as soon as you have brought the gold into contact with the water, instantly and quickly draw your hand and the little tip toward you. And if you observe that the gold is not all in contact with the water, take a bit of fresh cotton-wool, and tamp the gold down, as lightly as ever you can. And lay some more leaves in the same way. And when you are wetting down for the second leaf, take care to run the brush along the edge of the leaf just laid so accurately that the water will not run over it. And see to it that you lap the one which you are laying a little bit over the one which has been laid; first breathing upon the latter, so that the gold will adhere to the part where it overlaps. When you have laid about three pieces, go back and tamp the first one down with the cotton, breathing on it, and that will show you whether it requires any faulting.[124] Then fix yourself up a cushion, the size of a brick or tile, that is, a good flat board, with some nice soft white leather stretched over it, not greasy, but the kind that calfskins make. Tack it on, nicely spread out, and fill in between the wood and the leather with shearings. Then lay a leaf of gold out flat on this cushion; and with a good straight spatula cut this gold into such little pieces as you require for the faults which remain. Take a small pointed minever brush, and wet these faults with the usual tempera. And thus, if you moisten the handle of the brush with your lips a little cupped, it will be adequate to pick up [p. 81] the little scrap of gold and lay it on the fault. When you have finished the flats, though you ought to lay it so that you can burnish it the same day, as I shall show you when you have to gild moldings or leaves, take pains to gather up the scraps, as the master does who wishes to pave his way; so that you may always be as thrifty with the gold as you can, and make economies with it; and cover up the gold which you have laid, with white napkins.

What Stones are Good for Burnishing this Gilding.
Chapter CXXXV

When you judge that the gold is ready to be burnished, take a stone known as hematite;[125] and I will teach you how to prepare it; and, failing this stone, and even better for anyone who can make the outlay, sapphires, emeralds, balas rubies, topazes, rubies, and garnets: the choicer the stone, the better it is. A dog's tooth is also good, or a lion's, a wolf's, a cat's, and in general that of any animal which feeds decently upon flesh.[126]

How to Prepare the Stone for Burnishing Gold.
Chapter CXXXVI

Take a piece of hematite, and be careful to choose a good sound one, without any grain,[127] with its whole structure[128] continuous from [p. 82] top to bottom. Then betake yourself to the millstone, and grind it; and get it all straight across, and smooth, two fingers wide, or as much as you can. Then take some emery powder,[129] and shape it up, not so that it gets a sharp edge, but just a little ridge. Round it off nicely at the corners. Then mount it in a wooden handle, with a brass or copper ferrule; and have the handle all round and smooth at the end, so that the palm of your hand will rest on it well. Then polish it in this way. Take a good flat porphyry; put some powdered charcoal on it; and burnish over the porphyry with this stone, gripping it tightly with your hand, as if you were burnishing. And the result is that your stone gets dense, and turns quite black, and so shiny that it looks like a diamond.[130] Then you must take great care of it, so that it does not get chipped or come in contact with iron. And when you want to use it for burnishing gold or silver, first keep it in your bosom, so that there will not be any dampness about it, for the gold is very fastidious.

How You Should Burnish the Gold, or Mend Matters in Case it Could not Get Burnished.

Now the gold has to be burnished, because the time for that has arrived. It is true that in winter you may gild as much as you please, when the weather is damp and mild. In summer, lay your gold one hour, and burnish it the next. Now if it is too fresh, and some reason comes up why it has to be burnished, keep it in a place which gets some breath of heat, or breezes. Now if it is too dry, keep it in a moist place, always covered up; and when you want to burnish it, uncover it gently, with caution, for the slightest rubbing will injure it. If you put it in a cellar, at the foot of the casks or wine vats, it will become fit to burnish. Now if for some reason it has been impossible to get it burnished for a week or ten days or a month, take a good white napkin or towel; lay it over your gold, in the cellar or wherever it may [p. 83] be. Then take another napkin; soak it in clear water; wring it out, and squeeze it thoroughly. Open it up and spread it on top of the first napkin which you laid over the gold; and the gold will soon come back so that it can be burnished. Now I have recounted the circumstances of the case, when the gold is fit to stand being burnished.

Now I will Show You How to Burnish, and in What Direction, Especially a Flat.

Take your ancona, or whatever has been gilded; spread it out flat on two trestles, or on a bench. Take our burnishing stone, and rub it on your breast, or wherever you have any better clothing that is not greasy. Get it nice and warm; then sound out the gold, to see whether it is ready to be burnished; sound it out cautiously, always with hesitation. If you feel any dust under the stone, or feel it grit at all, like dust between your teeth, take a minever tail, and sweep lightly over the gold. And so burnish up a flat gradually, first in one direction, then, holding the stone quite flat, in the other direction. And if, while rubbing with the stone, it ever strikes you that the gold is not as even as a mirror, then take some gold, and put it on, by the leaf or the half leaf, at the same time blowing with your breath to begin with; and immediately burnish it with the stone. And if you ever find that even the flat of the gold is obstinate, and will not come out just to suit you, then again you lay it over once more in the same way. And, if you could stand the expense, it would be ideal, and good for your reputation, to lay the whole ground over again that way. When shall you know that it is burnished properly? -The gold then becomes almost dark from its own brilliance.

What Gold is Good for Burnish and for Mordant Gilding, and What Thickness.

Let me tell you that for the gold which is laid on flats they ought not to get more than a hundred leaves out of a ducat, whereas they do get a hundred and forty-five;[131] because the gold for the flat wants to be rather dull. If you want to be sure of the gold, when you buy it, get it from someone who is a good goldbeater; and examine the gold; and if you find it rippling and mat, like goat parchment, then consider it good. On moldings or foliage ornaments you will make out better with thinner gold; but for the delicate ornaments of the embellishment with mordants it ought to be very thin gold, and cobweb-like.

How You Should Begin Swinging the Diadems and do Stamping on the Gold, and Mark out[132] the Outlines of the Figures.
Chapter CXI

When you have burnished and finished your ancona, you must start by taking the compasses; swinging your crowns or diadems; engraving them; tapping in a few ornaments; stamping them with tiny punches, so that they sparkle like millet grains; embellish with other punches; and do stamping if there are any foliage ornaments. You [p. 85] will need to get some practice at this. When you have shaped up the diadems and ornaments in this way, take a bit of white lead in a little dish, thoroughly ground with a little diluted size; and with a smallish minever brush cover and mark out[133] the figures from the ground, just as you see those little marks which you scratched in with the needle before you laid the bole. Again, if you want to do without marking out[133 again] with white lead and the brush, take your little tools, and scrape off all the gold which is superfluous, or which laps over the figure: and this is better practice.

This stamping which I am telling you about is one of our most delightful branches. And you may do all-over stamping, as I have described; and you may model in the stamping,[134] so that, with imaginative feeling and a delicate touch, you may work out foliage ornaments on a gold ground, and make little angels and other figures so that they show up in the gold; that is, in the folds and in the shadows do not do any stamping; not much in the half tone; in the reliefs, a great deal; because stamping amounts to making the gold lighter; because by itself it is dark wherever it is burnished.[135] But before you stamp a figure or foliage ornament, draw on the gold ground whatever you want to do, with a style of silver or brass.[136] [p. 86]



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