The Breslau Psalter

Painting the flesh

Artists' Techniques

The materials and techniques used by each of the artists to paint flesh tones are amongst their most characteristic traits. Hands A, B, C and D all painted a blue base layer for flesh tones with woad, which is one of the most distinctive features of the decoration. The subsequent pink surfaces, red outlines and white highlights were applied as distinct layers. This is especially visible in the figures painted by Hand C, whose facial features are angular and exaggerated.

The Gaibana Master used earth pigments in flesh tones, which have a greenish rather than blue undertone. His Associate employed large amounts of azurite instead. The careful blending of paint layers by both artists results in much smoother modelling of faces compared to that found in faces painted by the other illuminators.  

Christ is shown as Judge, with the Evangelists’ symbols in the corner medallions of the frame. The Virgin and St John the Baptist intercede with him for the salvation of humankind. This Byzantine scene, known as the Deësis, would have reached the Veneto from Constantinople. The Gaibana Master incorporated it into the Beatus initial for Psalm 1 (fol. 23v). The artist responsible for this miniature, Hand G, adopted it for his composition on fol. 115v.