Sunday, May 1, 2016


So, what are clothlets anyway?

 It is my understanding that clothlets were used to paint miniatures and to make transparent glazes on other colors for highlights, shading and flat gilding.  Here are my resources:

The glossary of the British Library describes “clothlet” as “A piece of cloth impregnated with pigment (generally a vegetable dye)” (Brown)
in The Materials and Techniques of Medieval Painting Thompson say:
iris green... was... more often prepared as a clothlet. Bits of cloth were dipped into the juice of iris flowers and dried, again and again, until they contained a sufficient quantity of the color.  (Thompson 171)
Clothlets were a most convenient form of colors for illuminators.  It was only necessary to put a bit of clothlet into a dish and wet it with a little glair or gum water, and the colour would dissolve out of the cloth into the medium, making a transparent stain.  A good many colors were prepared in this way for late medieval book painting, as transparent colours came to be more and more prized by the painters of miniatures.  Almost any coloured vegetable juice could be prepared in this way with at least some temporary success, and everything possible was tried... (Thompson 144)
Cennino Cennini talks about them himself for shading,
"and you may likewise work and shade with colors and with clothlets such as the illuminators use; the colors tempered with gum or with clear white of egg well beaten and liquefied."  (Thompson's Il Libro 7)
And he speaks of parchment:
"And you may shade on this paper (parchment) in the same way with ink, with colors, and with clothlets, using the temperas aforesaid." (Thompson's Il libro 8)
"It is likewise true that there are certain colors which have no body, known as clothlets, and they are made in every color; and it is only necessary to take a bit of this clothlet,of any color it may be dyed or colored, put it into a little glazed dish, or into a drinking cup; put in some gum; and it is ready for use."  (Thompson Il Libro 103)
I painted out my iris clothlets by cutting small squares (2x2cm and 2x3cm) and reconstituting the color in a clam shell with gum Arabic and distilled water. Gum indicated by Cennini (Thompson 144) and clam shell indicated in De Arte Illuminandi (Thompson and Hamilton 17.
De Arte Illuminandi also uses "this year's" "blue lily" clothlets as a mordant for flat gilding .  For turnsole the author recommends: "And work over the first layin with the pure clothlet afterward, until it suits you and gets carried out to the completion of the work."(Thopson and Hamilton 22)

Happy clothlet making and using!

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