One of the most fascinating topics of the medieval painted world is that of textile painting, or staining as it was called. In England Stainers were a sub-branch of the Painters’ Guild, the latter had free reign to use the best colours and work on any substrate, including cloth, the Stainers however, were only allowed to use the cheapest stains (thin washes) of paint on cloth. Given the low intrinsic value of these items and the easily decayed nature of the cloths it is no surprise that few examples survive in the archaeological record. The surviving pieces are almost all fragments with unknown primary use. There are some notable painted or printed textiles that survive more or less intact but this is testimony to the actual social or religious importance of the final piece rather than the resilience of the substrates.
What seems to be clear is that the prevalence of painted textiles was widespread and of moderate cost available to a range of social strata. Probate inventories of the late middle ages contain frequent references to painted or stained cloths, sometimes described in terms of colour or design. The methods of producing the painted cloths are well recorded across Europe, in some cases they reference other nations’ practises, implying a ready transfer of skills and knowledge. It could also be that there are only so many ways to achieve the same end, resulting in similarities.
Previous entries have shown work on silk, this entry will show a sampler of gilded medium weight bleached linen.
A heavy parchment stencil of the Firestriker of Burgundy was made to enable replication of the pattern.
The outline was drawn in charcoal, very lightly using the stencil, then strengthened with ink – iron gall. This was done to show the placement of the device.
The ground for the gold was made using gelatine size, gilder’s whiting and red bole, a reddish clay used for gilding. This produced a pink under layer on which to place the gold leaf. A coloured ground allows small faults in the gilding to be less noticable and in some cases enhances the colour of the leaf. The ground was allowed to dry then scraped back to fill the interstices of the weave giving as flat a surface as possible. I then burnished the ground to smooth it further and to enhance the shine of the gold when later laid.
For the gilding I used a gelatine size (water gilding), this allows the gold to be burnished when dry enough.
Gold leaf rectangles were cut slightly larger than the strikers and laid on the dampened strikers and allowed to dry.
The same was done for the flints – the cloud like blobs – but using silver leaf instead.
The sparks were applied free hand and polished and gilded.
Once dry enough the devices were burnished with an agate burnishing tool, even though the weave is still visible on the ground, the overall effect is successful with the gold and the silver leaf shining. Ideally the ground should be strong enough and deep enough in the weave to allow bending of the cloth without cracking off the gilded layer, this is less successful, although moderately resilient there is noticeable cracking. When I gild on silk I use half chalk/whiting to half titanium white, this allows for a much finer filling in the weave and complete flexibility, I cannot recall if I had done the same with this sample.
Notes: Silver leaf is prone to tarnishing, I did not glaze or varnish the leaf as is sometimes recommended and a blueish layer is clearly present.
The details were then modelled using lamp black and egg yolk, a medieval medium to paint over polished leaf.
Method sources: various late medieval painters’ treatises including; Cennino de Cennini – Book of Art –
Strasbourg manuscript – V and R Borradaile