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SG208A Program E

Traditional Painting: Materials, Methods, and Issues in Conservation

2 Units
Instructor: Prof. Nikolas Vakalis


Mornings: Lectures 1.5 hours (SG208A)
Afternoons: 4 hours workshop (SG208B)

Course Description

This course gives an in-depth understanding of traditional painting materials and techniques commonly used in Italy from the Classical Antiquity, to the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. Since this course is aimed primarily at people planning to study art conservation, the course also explores factors that hasten deterioration of the materials and the different approaches to their restoration. Four visiting lecturers will present various topics of interest to painted artifacts and restoration case studies (frescoes, panel paintings, canvas paintings).

This course could be of interest to students of fine arts, art restoration, painting, art history, art management and museum studies.

Course Objectives

Summary of Lecture Content

Part 1. Traditional Methods and Materials in Painting


  • Masonry

  • Wood

  • Canvas


  • Pigments (organic and inorganic)

  • Natural

  • Artificial


Varnishes and Glazes


Fresco painting

  • Materials

    • Gypsum

    • Lime

    • Lime cycle and chemistry

      • Calcination

      • Carbonation

      • Slaking and seasoning

    • Aggregates (natural and artificial, inert and hydraulic)

      • Sands

      • Marble dust

      • Pozzolana

      • Brick dust

    • Materials

      • Arriccio

      • Intonachino

      • Pictorial layer

Fresco tradition

  • Ancient Roman

    • Pontata

    • Polishing

  • Byzantine

  • Renaissance

  • Giornata


Painting on wood board using 14th century methods

  • Board structure

  • Board preparation

  • Incamottatura

  • Gesso rendering

  • Pigments and tempera binding


  • Gouache gilding method (bolo)

  • Burnishing

  • Mordant gilding method

Oil painting on canvas

  • Stretchers

  • Canvas

  • Filler

  • Ground

  • Pigments and oil binders

  • Varnishes

Deterioration Causes

Crushed stones



Crushed bricks and others

Afternoon Workshop

See Syllabus SG208B

Description of Assignments

READINGS: Cenino Cenini, The Craftsman’s Handbook.

Earlier Event: July 8
SG207 Program E
Later Event: July 8
SG206A Program D