ARDR 340: The Medieval Artist. Tools and Techniques

Instructor: William Pettit - M.F.A.
Credits: 3
Course/Lab Fee: 50 Euro
Prerequisite: None
Cross-Listing: Studio Art

Course description and objectives

This course is a survey and a practical workshop of traditional artistic techniques as developed in Central Italy during the Middle Ages and early Renaissance. The goal is to learn about traditional processes and use of materials, and to create an artwork typical of the period between the tenth and the fifteenth centuries. We will use the Italian artists’ bottega (Art Studio) as a model, and focus on art-making as a multimedia collective workshop. As well as a survey of the period and styles, the course will cover techniques such as drawing and painting in egg tempera, using supports and pigments typical of the period. Students will be guided through the various steps in preparing a finished piece. We will focus on Icon painting in particular. A visit to a professional art restoration laboratory is also included. The course is well suited to students of different levels and backgrounds who wish to gain a greater understanding of the Medieval and early Renaissance art-making techniques.


Course Materials

Students should have a small sketchbook for notes and designs ideas.

Most tools and equipment will be supplied.


Among the materials to be used are:

  • Wood:  panels of poplar or  oak, ply and solid
  • Finishing: planes, scrapers, sandpaper, steel wool
  • Linen:  canvas and cloth
  • Sizes: Hide glues, rabbit skin glue, fish glue, gelatin
  • Gesso: plaster of Paris, plaster of Bologna
  • Papers: for drawing, tracing, and transferring
  • Powdered pigments: earths, metals, and synthetics
  • Brushes: natural and synthetic
  • Measuring tools: compass, levels, plumb lines
  • Gilding: Gold leaf, bole and gold-leaf sizings
  • Burnishing: Agate burnishers, tooth burnishers
  • We will also discuss the use of culinary ingredients in painting, like eggs, cheese, saffron, garlic, salt, and honey. 



Recommended Reading

Daniel V. ThompsonThe Materials and Techniques of Mediaeval Painting

Daniel V. ThompsonThe Practice of Tempera Painting