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Juliet's Art Shoppe 21-03-07 03:22 PM

Have you ever heard of this varnish?
Hi own Juliet's Art Shoppe in Brookline, NH.
A woman came in the other day looking for copal varnish to finish the Egg Tempera painting she is working on, she is taking a class where she is apparently trying to mimic "classic techniques" (What that entails I don't know ) of Icon painting.

I found the copal varnish for her but I also came across Magister Inc.
This is a company from the Netherlands which specializes in classic varnishes in particular those used on instruments.
It is his position (and from his very thorough emails I believe him) that his Vernice Liquida Comune Varnish is the type that was commonly used in Icon painting.

Has anyone ever used this type of varnish?

If so I would like to hear what you think about it, I'm thinking about carrying it in my store if there is enough interest.

Otherwise thanks for reading my post, and I must say that I am very impressed with the amount of excellent/friendly info found on this site.

If I can ever be of service to you please feel free to call:
Chad Halliday
Juliet's Art Shoppe
181 RT. 13
Brookline, NH

Bert Congdon 21-03-07 05:22 PM

According to Ralph Mayer's 1941 publication (I can't find the latest since moving) copal is a name applied to a variety of varnishes made by melting rosin at a high temperature and adding linseed oil and thinner.
He says, "The artist that has any concern for the permanence of his work will never, under aany circumstances, use copal varnish in paintings or grounds." Copal turns dark, is brittle and will crack. I would never use it, nor would I add it to any artist varnish.

Old time house painters called it "hard oil," and used it as a primer on bare plaster. It was hard to use, turned very dark, but was a good sealer. We always respected hard oil, but it took two coats to cover.

Juliet's Art Shoppe 21-03-07 06:21 PM

Thanks Bert,
My post isn't so clear, I was asking about the "Vernice Liquida Comune Varnish " and this is a Sandrac ( if that makes a diffrence) based material.
I was just wondering if this would be considered the classical varnish for ET (if their is one) and a usefull product to keep in the store.

If anyone has any "hard to get item" suggestions, please feel free to let me know and I will try to locate them.

Bert Congdon 21-03-07 07:02 PM

Sorry Julie, I should have read more carefully.These old varnish companies would come up with a secret recipe, put a name on it, and declare it to be the prize of the centruy. I have no interest in the"old" recipes unless they are proven over time. This may be a great varnish, but these old guys didn't wait a hundred years to find out. Another thing, these varnish companies had about ten different grades, so it is hard to determine today what these old varnishes were really made with.

Sandarac is hard and brittle, and was usually added to other varnishes to add hardness, and of course brittleness. Mayer says it was probably the amber called for in some of the earliest recipes.

I don't think I need to type all this for you folks. Look it up for yourselves.

It may very well be the classical varnish, but so is spit on cave walls. I have never used it , and have no first hand knowledge of this product, but I don't want to wait fifty years either. I would have to have a very strong recommendation before I would try it. I don't varnish ET anyway. I do varnish oil paintings, but not with anything I can't easily take off with turpentine.

mona 30-03-07 12:53 AM

have you heard of this varnish?
hi Juliet,

have not heard of it in my icon painting classes. We are using linseed oil mixed with honey (I will double-check if there is any other kind of oil in there, but don't think so) to drench a finished icon (which sits flat on a surface while absorbing the oil over a period of days until it is adequately sunk in).

Probably the oldest and purest techniques are best as Bert seems to say between the lines of his reply. I think it also depends upon the school of iconology....the tradition...that your technique comes from. Each school has it's own 'prescribed' approach, color palette, techniques, unlike painting overall which is wide open.

BTW, although you are not asking about copal, in illustration, some illustrators use copal as a way to make the oil paint dry faster for deadline-driven projects. This is the only reason I have ever used it at all, and seldom have. Sometimes it is also referred to as Japan-drier. I
have heard so much about it's darkening properties that I avoid it also.

jeff 30-03-07 01:56 AM

Mona, I'd like to hear more about this linseed oil/honey mix. Do you think of it as a varnish? Doesn't it go very yellow over time? How does it affect the appearence of the icon?


mona 30-03-07 04:09 AM

have you ever heard of this varnish?
Jeff, I am a "rank beginner" at icon painting compared to some, so I would have to refer part of your question to my teacher. Yes, it is called "varnishing". The overall effect of doing it 'integrates' the icon, which is made with a combination of water-gilded gold leaf, egg tempera, and clay bole. I was surprised that the varnish is also applied over the gold leaf, but yes it is. Whatever sits on the top after adequate overall absorption is gently removed.

Do not know the answer about would also be hard to know because the prescribed palette for Russian Byzantine style is so warm to begin with...ochres, earth colors, etc. being featured and preferred. However, these are old tried and true methods, so I tend to think yellowing would not be an issue. After more experience about varnishing, perhaps I'll have more to say, or maybe someone more experienced has an answer for you.

jeff 30-03-07 05:19 AM

Well it's all very interesting anyway. Icon painting has such a long history that it can't be anything else. Thankyou for asking further about this. Also what are the proportions of honey and linseed oil and do you have to use any particular sorts of either? Maybe I could give it a trial.


Salamander 30-03-07 01:53 PM

See if this is of any help

Salamander 30-03-07 01:59 PM

I think Ralph Mayer is a bit of an hearsay writer with little experience of is own. Not the best of reference books. Try Doerner or Massey, Eastlake or AP Laurie for more experiential knowledge.
About et varnish I'd think that if any varnish were used, mastic would be the one. After a year of drying the et though I can't imagine any varnish being overly problematic. Of course most varnishes will intercept the et's beautiful natural finish.

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