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.  

Lightbox: 213
Detail of the Virgin’s face and mantle under magnification (7.5x), showing the significant degradation of the verdigris pigment.
Lightbox: 214
Detail of an angel’s face under magnification (20x).

This miniature painted by Hand A depicts a specific moment of the Crucifixion. Including the Virgin, St John and two adoring angles, it shows Christ’s side being pierced by the Roman centurion who would embrace the new faith as Jesus’ blood healed his blindness.