Vernice Bianca again!


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I've been using this ground successfully for a while now, so this is not a technical question. Rather, from the (admittedly limited) research I've done, it seems that only Sarconi's (sp?) book references VB as a ground used specifically by luthiers during the golden period. Has anyone seen other references to this ground as used by past luthiers (not painters)?

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Sacconi had the opinion that Stradivari used it. He identified a substance inside well preserved Stradivari instruments that is water soluble. Sacconi's ideas about varnish changed every week, according to many. I use VB inside my instruments .

Egg white was used as a painting medium known as "tempera".

The ground subject is a highly controversial one.

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It has to be remembered that the "vernice bianca" is just a variation on egg tempera, on of the most widely used mediums in the world since ancient times up until today. Egg tempera in various forms is mentioned hundreds, probably thousands of times in old texts and recipes, and in modern artists books' too. Only some violin geeks in their little dark workshops thinks "vernice bianca" is some magic recipe only for violins.

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Sacconi believes that Stradivari used vernice bianca in

two places: between the color varnish and the ground, and

inside the plates.  

I don't think he had very solid analytical evidence.  

AFAIK, the only chemical analysis performed on the unvarnished

side of the plate is by Tove and coworkers. They were looking

for inorganic elements and did not look into protein coatings.

Condax and Baese have reported protein interlayers above the ground

and under the color varnish, but what exact experiments they

performed I am not sure.  What protein is used is also

uncertain.  Condax has obtained mixed results from amino acid

analysis: collagen glue or egg white.  

It is quite likely that the protein interlayer is real, but the

evidence for gum arabic, sugar and honey seem to be

missing.

As for the historical use of egg white by artists, I can't remember

all the details right now. I will consult the books of

Eastlake, Thompson, Cennini, Theophilus and Laurie again to

refresh my memory.

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During the Renassance in Italy it was quite fashionable for artist's publishing "tratatti" about their craft. Cellini did that, as well as Ceninno Ceninni and Lionardo da Vinci.

There is a shop in Florence called "Zecchi", they sell artist's products, I remember they advertise they have ALL products mentioned in Ceninno Ceninni's "Il Libro dell"Arte", dated 1437, I think.

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quote:


Originally posted by:
Dean_Lapinel
Bruce! I had no

idea you collected those books. Nice selections. Are you planning

on increasing your collection? Are you an artist? PM me - I can

tell you about other books if you are going that route.

Dean

I got these books in order to write my review of scientific

studies on Cremonese varnish.

Cremonese varnish is related to oil painting in many ways, and

that's why I got interested in the early development of oil

painting.

Unfortunately, there seems to be just about as many controversies

surrounding Van Eyck's painting technique as Stradivari's varnish.

 

The oil-varnish mystery in old paintings is even more hotly

debated than in old violin varnish, which I found extremely

intriguing.

 

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quote:


Originally posted by:
MANFIO
During the Renassance

in Italy it was quite fashionable for artist's publishing

"tratatti" about their craft. Cellini did that, as well as Ceninno

Ceninni and Lionardo da Vinci. There is a shop in Florence called

"Zecchi", they sell artist's products, I remember they advertise

they have ALL products mentioned in Ceninno Ceninni's "Il Libro

dell"Arte", dated 1437, I think.

The store you mentioned sounds incredible.

Cennini's book made multiple mentions of vernice liquida,

which literally means liquid resin.  

Vernice meant amber originally, then other resins resembling

amber.  

Because resins are solids, resins dissolved in oil are called

vernice liquida.

I would love to know what the Florence store puts into its

vernice liquida, is it amber, copal sandarac or

turpentine?

 

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I think the Colorificio Zecchi is quite open about these things, you could probably just call them, as far as I am aware of they aren't on the internet. They have very nice linseed oil!

It is true that egg yolk was favoured in the tempere for painting, it is fattier so it dries more slowly, and makes colours more opaque. But I think egg white also was used when the coat needed to be clear, and in combination white pure white colours. Just to mix it with water makes it dry a little slower, but some mixed it with a little bleached linseed oil as well. I never use honey in the VL, I don't think it is needed at all, and honey is a substance that varies wildly, you never know what it does.

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Well, the term vernice translates directly to varnish, without specifying amber. Vernice bianca in Italian translates directly to varnish white, or white varnish, without specifics on varnish ingrediants. Since the art of making varnish from amber didn't gain widespread use until just about the time Strad died, I'm not convinced that the word vernice always means amber varnish. The word vernice goes further back, and I think the idea of egg white as a varnish, regardless of how used, goes further back as well. I think the words vernice bianca may have started as a general term for one kind of tempera.

I've never thought of vernice bianca as a violin only medium (which is partially why I started the thread). But, in fact, violin work is the only place I've ever heard the term.

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Ferbose, Zecchi has the raw materials mentioned by Ceninni, not ready made products. It's a charming place indeed Magnus, many many art restorers getting so many different products, Florence is a marevelous place indeed.

By the way Magnus, there is an interesting discussion in the violin making Italian forum (Claudio Rampini) about varnish, tempera, etc.

Ferbose, what about learning Italian?

Ciao!

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quote:


Originally posted by:
polkat

Since the art of making varnish from amber didn't gain widespread use until just about the time Strad died...

What evidence do you have to support this? There are many recipes for amber varnish that pre date Strad's death. I'm not claiming that amber varnish was used by Stradivari, just that it did exist.

Ferbose,

According to Donald Fels:

"...amber or hard resin varnishes is representative of a number of versions of varnish listed under the heading of Vernice Liquida E Gentile. This term is used to separate amber varnishes of this type from the common varnish listed as Vernice Liquida made using the softer resins Sandarac, Juniper Gum and Frankincense."

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The evolution of the word vernice is studied in great detail

in Eastlake's book (Methods and Materials of Painting of the Great

Schools and Masters).  It is a very complex subject, and

reading hundreds of pages of discussion by Eastlake really

clarifies it.  He clearly explains why vernice

liquida means a vernice (some kind

of solid resin) that is liquefied (dissolved in a

liquid).  

The best discussion concerning egg white, honey and gum arabic I

have seen is in Thompson's book (The Materials and Techniques of

Medieval Painting).  He goes into practical details and

rationales.  Beating egg white to perfection was

considered a specialized craft in those times.  

BTW, from everything I have read, I find the amber (I mean real

amber, the fossil resin) varnish debate to be as hopeless

as it was 200 years ago.  There are always historical

documents to say that it was available and used. But all

practical considerations indicate that it was expensive, difficult

to make and rarely available. Experimental evidence showing it in

Italian varnishes is not available.  Only Baese showed one

electron micrograph (in the newsletter to his book) of a

varnish sample claiming that it contains amber.  In

my opinion there is no way that the electron microscopy could

identify amber.  I really wish to be enlightened on this

subject a bit more.

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Hi Ferbose,

I agree with much you have written, and it's well known to most Maestronetters that you are well read on the subject of varnishes. I myself am most certainly not an expert on classic Italian varnish and will likely never have the opportunity to become one. Very few have the regular exposure to these instruments and the educational background necessary to make any real claims. However, I would like to say that I don't agree with your notion that amber varnish is difficult to make. I make amber varnish and it's no more difficult than many other varnishes. I agree that amber was likely very expensive and prized pieces scare (not much has changed!), but amber varnish can be made from the smallest of pieces that surely would have been far less valuable. Again, I'm not trying to make any claims about amber being used in classic Italian varnishes, however I can say that it makes an excellent varnish and is superior to many of the other varnishes I've experimented with thus far. It's also fun to make something today using something that is prehistoric. Cheers,

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Hi Daryl,

I've been making varnishes for many years but have never had success making an amber varnish, can you give us an outline of how you do it?

My vote is that amber was not widely used, mostly because of the expense and the readily available and excellent alternatives.

Oded Kishony

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