Dating back to the Byzantine Empire around 200 AD, Iconography or Εικών Γράφειν (image writing) was said to be the depiction of saints and the holy family as real representations, handed down through the centuries. In the Orthodox Christian Religions, St Luke, a disciple with a visual memory of the subjects, is said to have been the first Iconographer and has become the Patron Saint of Artists. It would have been the work of monks and clerics, the most well known of these being Anton Rublev in Russia and Emmanuel Tzanes in Greece.
The Icon was a vehicle for prayer and was usually kept in a cupboard or niche until required. It was also made as a triptych (3 panel) or diptych (2 panel) which folded shut when not in use and could be transported as a travelling altarpiece. King Richard II had one made for when he was on his French campaigns, the author of which is still unknown to this day. It was found at Wilton House and has been renamed the Wilton Diptych. It can now be found in the National Gallery's Sainsbury Wing.
Gesso The wooden board is first coated with gesso, a plaster made from Rabbit's Skin Glue and Whiting, then applied in 10 thin layers. It is sanded with very fine sandpaper until it has a silk like finish.
Tracing The image is carefully traced then attached to the board and hinged on one side like the leaf of a book, then the part to be gilded traced down with red graphite transfer paper.
Gilding There are two methods, Oil Gilding working with Gold Size and Transfer Gold Leaf, Oil Gilding working with Bole and water using Loose Gold Leaf and a feather brush to gently drop it onto the board
For Iconography courses held in the Studio, Water Gilding is usualy taught over a weekend with the aid of a visiting Gilder, Sue Viner.
Egg Tempera Painting. An emulsion is made with the Yolk of an Egg and Red Wine Vinegar and when this is mixed with purified water it becomes the painting medium. Colours are mixed in very small quantities with pure pigments. The writing of an icon has a specific order of painting, working in layers from base colours and from dark to light.
See details of Cheryll's Iconography Courses.