Photograph by Benjamin Rabeon Flickr.
Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528), for example, painted on poplar when he was in Venice and on oak when in the Netherlands Panel painting and southern Germany. This was more tolerant, and allowed the exceptional detail of Early Netherlandish art.
The earliest forms of panel painting were dossals (altar backs), altar fronts and crucifixes. Many Dutch painters of the Golden Age used panel for their small works, including Rembrandt on occasion.
Encaustic and tempera are the two techniques used in antiquity. The Netherlands ran short of local timber early in the 15th century, and most Early Netherlandish masterpieces are Baltic oak, often Polish, cut north of Warsaw and shipped down the Vistula, across the Baltic to the Netherlands.
Cranach often used beech wood—an unusual choice. Specialists can identify the tree species used, which varied according to the area where the painting was made.
For smaller cabinet paintings, copper sheets (often old printmaking plates) were another rival support, from the end of the 16th century, used by many artists including Adam Elsheimer. His panels are of notoriously complicated construction, containing as many as seventeen pieces of wood (Het Steen, National Gallery, London).
However, it is estimated that of all the panel paintings produced there, 99.9 percent have been lost. The donor and members of his family are also often shown, usually kneeling to the side. The 13th and 14th centuries in Italy were a great period of panel painting, mostly altarpieces or other religious works.
Paul Getty Museum. In the northeast and south, coniferous trees such as spruce, fir, and pine have been used.
In the Middle Ages, spruce and lime were used in the Upper Rhine and often in Bavaria. Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) used oak for his paintings in France; Hans Baldung Grien (1484/5–1545) and Hans Holbein (1497/8–1543) used oak while working in southern Germany and England.
Pinewood was used mainly in Tirol and beech wood only in Sachen. Large altars made in Denmark during the fifteenth century used oak for the figures as well as for the painted wings.
Lime was popular with Albrecht Altdorfer (ca. But, for example, The National Gallery in London has two Goya portraits on panel. Many other painting traditions also painted, and still paint, on wood, but the term is usually only used to refer to the Western tradition described above. The technique is known to us through Cennino Cennini s The Craftsman s Handbook (Il libro dell arte) published in 1390, and other sources.
Outside of the Rhineland, softwood (such as pinewood) was mainly used. This used a very painstaking multi-layered technique, where the painting, or a particular part of it, had to be left for a couple of days for one layer to dry before the next was applied. Wood panels, especially if kept with too little humidity, often warp and crack with age, and from the 19th century, when reliable techniques were developed, many have been transferred to canvas or modern board supports. Wood panel is now rather more useful to art historians than canvas, and in recent decades there has been great progress in extracting this information - and many fakes discovered and mistaken datings corrected.
It changed little over the centuries. The Severan Tondo, also from Egypt (about 200AD) is one of the handful of non-funerary Graeco-Roman specimens to survive.
By the 18th century it had become unusual to paint on panel, except for small works to be inset into furniture, and the like. So dendro-chronological conclusions tend to be expressed as a terminus post quem or an earliest possible date, with a tentative estimate of an actual date, that may be twenty or more years later. The so-called Panel Paintings Initiative is a multi-year project in collaboration between the Getty Conservation Institute, the Getty Foundation, and the J.
Secular art opened the way to the creation of chests, painted beds, birth trays and other furniture. In the last decade of the seventeenth century, Wilhelmus Beurs, a Dutch writer on painting techniques, considered oak to be the most useful wooden substrate on which to paint.
Many double-sided wings of altarpieces (see picture at top) have also been sawn into two one-sided panels. Canvas took over from panel in Italy by the first half of the 16th century, a change led by Mantegna and the artists of Venice (which made the finest canvas at this point). Of a group of twenty Norwegian altar frontals from the Gothic period (1250–1350) fourteen were made of fir, two of oak, and four of pine (Kaland 1982).
Until canvas became the more popular support medium in the 16th century, it was the normal form of support for a painting not on a wall (fresco) or on vellum, which was used for miniatures in illuminated manuscripts and also for paintings for framing. Panel painting is very old; we know it was a very prestigious medium in Greece and Rome, but only very few examples of ancient panel paintings have survived. However, exceptions are seen rather early in the seventeenth century: sometimes walnut, pearwood, cedarwood, or Indian wood were used.
Fir wood is shown to have been used in the Upper and Middle Rhine, Augsburg, Nuremberg, and Saxony. This exacting perfection shaped the nature and style of the art produced. By the beginning of the 15th century, oil painting was developed.
In the Netherlands the change took about a century longer, and panel paintings remained common, especially in Northern Europe, even after the cheaper and more portable canvas had become the main support medium. Encaustic largely ceased to be used after the early Byzantine icons. In the late 12th century panel painting experienced a revival in Western Europe because of new liturgical practices—the priest and congregation were now on the same side of the altar, leaving the space behind the altar free for the display of a holy image—and thus altar decorations were in demand.
1562), Dürer, and Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472–1553). The vast majority of Early Netherlandish paintings are on panel, and these include most of the earliest portraits, such as those by Jan van Eyck, and some other secular scenes.
Oak coming from Königsberg as well as G dansk was often found among Flemish and Dutch artists works from the 15th through the 17th centuries. In France, until the seventeenth century, most panels were made from oak, although a few made of walnut and poplar have been found.
Many such works are now detached and hung framed on walls in museums. In Northern Europe, poplar is very rarely found, but walnut and chestnut are not uncommon.
Using small brushes dipped in a mixture of pigment and egg-yolk, the paint was applied in very small strokes. Italian paintings used local or sometimes Dalmatian wood, most often poplar, but including chestnut, walnut, oak and other woods.
Carbon-dating techniques can give an approximate date-range (typically to about a range of about 20 years), and dendrochronology sequences have been developed for the main source areas of timber for panels. This uses heated wax as the medium for the pigments. This was replaced before the end of first millennium by tempera, which uses an egg-yolk medium.
However, in general, oak was the most common substrate used for panel making in the Low Countries, northern Germany, and the Rhineland around Cologne. Panel painting has always been the normal support for the Icons of Byzantine art and the later Orthodox traditions, the earliest of which (all in Saint Catherine s Monastery, Mount Sinai) date from the 5th or 6th centuries, and are the oldest panel paintings which seem to be of the highest contemporary quality.
All were painted with religious images, commonly the Christ or the Virgin, with the saints appropriate to the dedication of the church, and the local town or diociese, or to the donor. Even so, when canvas or copper was not used, the main oeuvre of the northern school was painted on oak panels. Once the panel construction was complete, the design was laid out, usually in charcoal. The usual ancient painting technique was encaustic, used at Al-Fayum and in the earliest surviving Byzantine icons, which are at the Saint Catherine s Monastery, Mount Sinai.
The Panel Paintings Initiative is a response to the growing recognition that significant collections of paintings on wood panels may be at risk in coming decades due to the waning numbers of conservators and craftspeople with the highly specialized skills required for the conservation of these complex works of art. A series of 6th century BC painted tablets from Pitsa (Greece) represent the oldest surviving Greek panel paintings.
The young Rubens and many other painters preferred it for the greater precision that could be achieved with a totally solid support, and many of his most important works also used it, even for paintings over four metres long in one dimension. 1480–1538), Baldung Grien, Christoph Amberger (d.
The first century BC to third century AD Fayum mummy portraits, preserved in the exceptionally dry conditions of Egypt, provide the bulk of surviving panel painting from the Imperial Roman period - about 900 face or bust portraits survive. In the seventeenth century about four thousand full-grown oak trees were needed to build a medium-sized merchant ship; thus, imported wood was necessary.
The oak favored as a support by the painters of the northern school was, however, not always of local origin. Because tempera (like encaustic) dries quickly and is not conducive to mistakes, each stroke had to be perfect each time.
More information on the objectives of the project can be found on The Getty website: http://www.getty.edu/conservation/education/panelpaintings/ . Mahogany was already in use by a number of painters during the first decades of the seventeenth century and was used often in the Netherlands in the nineteenth century.
Southern German painters often used pine, and mahogany imported into Europe was used by later painters, including examples by Rembrandt and Goya. In theory dendro-chronology gives an exact felling date, but in practice allowances have to be made for a seasoning period of several years, and a small panel may be from the centre of the tree, with no way of knowing how many rings outside the panel there were. A panel painting is a painting on a panel made of wood, either a single piece, or a number of pieces joined together.