Cloth of Honor

The design for the vermilion cloth of honor behind the Virgin and Child was created using a technique called sgraffito, which is an Italian word meaning scratched. In this case silver leaf was laid over moistened red bole, and once dried the leaf was burnished with a smooth pebble or a hound's tooth, as recommended by Cennino Cennini, a late fourteenth century artist and compiler of artist's techniques. Then the silver leaf was completely covered with vermilion egg tempera paint that was probably modeled in the shadows with a semi-transparent red lake, similar to madder. The artist then took a pointed stick or bone and carefully scratched a design in the paint down to the silver leaf. The design in this instance probably represents a pomegranate. While some designs were drawn by hand, as was the one in this painting, others were transferred using a cartoon or template.