Leaves from the Hours of Charles de Martigny

Painting with gold

Artists' Techniques

The miniature of Pentecost features shell gold highlights on the draperies, hair and the Virgin’s chair. The soft gradations and varying concentrations of shell gold seen here, especially on the apostles’ white hair and beards, have their origins in the stippling technique which Bourdichon learned from his master, Jean Fouquet, and shared with his assistants.

Bourdichon’s technique of contrasting deep shadows with highlights executed in varying concentrations of shell gold is evident in the dramatic light effects that illuminate the night scene of the Betrayal and Arrest of Christ. Beneath a starry sky, the blazing torches illuminate armour, clothing, hair and flesh. Even the semi-transparent halos catch the light. Reflections draw attention to small, but important details of the pictorial narrative, such as St Peter’s sword and Judas’ purse, which might have escaped the observer’s eye had they been allowed to blend into the darkness.

Bourdichon employed the camaïeu d’or technique to highlight the Arma Christi (Instruments of the Passion) carried by angels in the miniature of the Mass of St Gregory.