Studio: international art — 1.1893

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Notes on Gesso Work

craftsmen, as in the case of the famous ceiling at or floating the gesso on into the spaces of the
Blickling Hall. The Italian craftsman's skill in design (see illustration) as its treatment may re-
quire, and adding more of the paste as greater
relief is wanted.

Gesso-duro takes some days to harden, but dries,
as its name implies, very hard. It can then be
scraped down in parts if necessary, and worked on
again or retouched to any extent; although I
think, as a general rule, the peculiar quality given
by the brush is perhaps best left unaltered, or at
least only added to, and not taken away from by
scraping down, yet a very fine finish of an ivory
character could be obtained in this way, useful in
some cases, as in making models for metal castings.
The true character of gesso-work, however, seems
best kept when the work is as direct and simple as
possible. Of the frame fillings in the illustra-
dealing with all kinds of plaster work and the 'ion, the upper one was worked in gesso-duro
mystery of moulding and casting, remains pre- from a design of mine by Harold Week (see illus-
eminent, and perhaps the gesso-worker still sur- tration).

vives in the adroit Italian artist who squeezes There are various patents and materials in the
spirals and garlands, in a tinted gesso of plaster market for working in gesso, but the best I have
and sugar, upon our cakes. Sugar too was, I met with is called " Denoline." It consists of a
believe, an ancient ingredient in mixing gesso. fine powder sold in tins, which only requires to be

There are various kinds of gesso and recipes for mixed with cold water to convert it into a paste of
the making it, and it can be worked in different any consistency required, regulated by the quantity
ways and on different scales and degrees of relief, of water used. Flour appears to be an ingredient,
For fine work on a small scale, such as might be and wheat-flour was used, I believe, as well as
used for caskets or small panels in cabinets, and sugar, by the old Italian gesso-workers. The
the decoration of frames and furniture, gesso-duro dolphic frame border (see illustration) was worked
is the best. It is a mixture of whitening, soaked in this material "Denoline," mixed as stiffly as
first in cold water till quite soft, glue and gelatine, possible, about the consistency of modelling clay
boiled linseed oil and a little resin, mixed well or wax, laid on and pressed and pulled into shape
together, warm of course, to the consistency of by the fingers, and finished by an ordinary model-
thick cream. ling tool. " Denoline " dries slowly and can be

Supposing it is desired to work a design on a retouched. It gets a little clinging and sticky in
panel of wood, the panel had best receive a coat working, and, no doubt, like all the different
of shellac or varnish first. Then having traced or varieties of gesso, in common with every workable
sketched direct in outline your design, lay on the material under the sun, requires its own peculiar
paste with the point of a long-haired sable brush— treatment.

the kind known as a " rigger " or fine water-colour The design for a bell-pull (see illustration) was
brush will answer. It should be held as perpendi- modelled in gesso-duro by Osmund Weeks from
cularly to the panel as possible, so as to favour the drawing here given, as a model for reproduc-
precision and clearness of touch, lightly dropping tion in electro-silver and copper.


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