Table preparation

Icons are painted on linden wood. The boards are purchased from a specialized carpentry shop. The larger ones have braces on the back to contrast the movements of the wood. Some boards depending on the subject, have the central hollow part (called cradle).

Since paint cannot be appluied directly on wood, surface must be prepared. The first process is applying on it a linen cloth. The linen cloth is soaked in naural glue and then applied on the table. The application of the linen cloth is important because it gives elasticity to the plaster that will be applied on it, avoiding cracks to open even with small movements of the wood.

The second step is applying chalk. Bologna or Meudon chalk is used . Both are inert, so that must be mixed it with a solution of water and natural glue. About 15 layers of chalk are applied suing a brush. Once hardened, the plaster is sanded by hand using progressively finer sand-papers. The surface must be particularly homogeneous and smooth, in order to guarantee excellent results both for gilding and tempera paint.


Daniela Natali, to gild her Icons, uses the ancient gouache technique. This technique, illustrated by Cennino Cennini in the 15th century, involves various stages.

The first phase is bolus applying on the board. Bolus is a particularly clay that is extremely fine ground; it is applied after mixing it with rabbit glue and water. It provides a base that facilitates the adhesion of the gold leaf to the board. Other modern gilding methods do not allow particular work to be done on gold, such as graffiti, punching, shiny and more opaque areas. Bolus gilding also offers greater guarantees of durability, proven by the fact that very ancient gilded paintings, realized with this technique, have come down to our times.

The second phase, shown in the video, is application of the gold leaf. Daniela Natali uses 24kt gold leaf, thickness 24, of which she applies two layers, to ensure a sufficiently beautiful and long-lasting gilding. The gold leaf is applied with gouache (a solution of water, alcohol and glue) that gives name to the technique.

The third stage, also shown in the video, is burnishing. Burnishing is executed out with a tool made with agate stone, called a burnisher. Burnishing makes gold surface shiny.