Manuscript illumination is the art of the handmade illustrated book. Developed before the advent of the printing press, gold leaf and handmade paints were used to create paintings of gilded splendor. Books were written on animal skin called parchment and "illuminated" by the use of gold leaf.
Illumination on Fine Art, Golden Grapes
This piece is part of a series of illuminations for a projected book on one of the Psalms. It was done on goatskin parchment using 24K yellow, 16K white, 23.5K red gold leaf and shell gold, using traditional manuscript techniques. The gesso base for the gold was made from the traditional recipes using parchment glue instead of the usual fish glue. Glaire instead of water was used to moisten the gesso. Since glaire becomes waterproof on drying, gilding must be completed within 24 hours or less. Since "Golden Grapes" was done as a piece of art, not intended to be bound into a book, the gesso is applied so that it has a much higher relief than in traditional manuscripts.
Fine Art Gilding
As noted above, gilding as long been associated with manuscripts. From the early Italian and Russian heritage, gilding has always been associated with iconography. Today many contemporary fine artists include gold leaf in the creation of paintings from landscape to abstract expressionism. Artists use many different methods of gilding depending on the work that is being created.