Mary Magdalene is first with the good news ‘I have seen the Lord!’
Good morning and Happy Easter!
Romanesque manuscripts are a rich resource for iconographers. I have often wondered how a manuscript image would work painted on to a gessoed board instead of vellum. I had a small maple board (approx 6″x 8″) already prepared so I set aside the homework on my nativity icon to work on this small experimental piece during Lent.
I chose this image of Mary Magdalene announcing her news to the discples. It’s from the St Alban’s Psalter, one of several known to have been created at or for St Albans Abbey in the 12th century. I love their expressions and the long thin draperies contrasted with oversized hands and feet.
Outline of figures added and oil gilding applied.
I transferred the outlines from my line drawing in red ochre then applied several layers of acrylic gold size (with some red ochre added to provide a contrast against the gesso) to adhere the transfer gold.
I then applied the base colours, including the richly coloured Caput Mortum for the background.
Building up the layers of garment colours
Some of my pigments are quite gritty. I like this varied texture on backgrounds but it’s hopeless to work with on tiny faces and details so I ground them up with a slab and muller and a spoon of water until they were very smooth.
The blue I used was a gift from my son who has recently been to Japan. While he was there he went to the new shop ‘Pigment‘ especially to buy me some! Here’s a sample of Azurite which I ground up and by levigating the mix I ground out three beautiful blues.
As the terre verte was too gritty to underpaint the small features on the faces, I used black and yellow to make green instead.
Underpainting faces using Maimeri yellow and a touch of ivory black
Adding the membrane to faces using maimeri yellow and white, a dash of red added later
Building up highlights on the faces and adding the hair
The faces still seemed too pale so I added a few washes of French Ochre Havanna (also called Warm Ochre). Looking at the faces and hair this close up I can see there is still some work needed.
Deepening the shadows, adding vermillion to the eyes and white highlights
I added several layers of malachite over the terre verte to give this rich green.
The almost finished article.
To see the original manuscript, please visit the St Albans’s Psalter here and this icon is now available to buy from my Etsy shop here.
Wishing you all a blessed and happy Easter and as Mary Magdalene first said: ‘He is Risen!’
Thanks for reading
P.S. Prints and cards are now available of this icon from Smith York Printer