Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Distemper (from French detremper, to moisten), or Tempera (Ital. mixture), is a method of painting in which the colours are mixed with water and some gelatinous substance to keep them together. In Italy the juice of figs was used; in mediaeval Germany, dilute yolk of egg and glue made from chippings of parchment. The surface of the walls to be decorated was commonly prepared by a thin coating of plaster, which, however, unlike Fresco (q.v.), was left to dry before the paint was applied. But the process is applicable to any material, and was used extensively in ancient Egypt and Babylon, in Greece, and to some extent in Rome, for internal mural decoration; but the colours will not resist exposure or damp. It was used in the Middle Ages for MS. decoration, and was the common process for panel paintings till driven out by oil painting during the latter half of the 15th century. The old Italian and German panel pictures are in distemper. The brilliancy of some of the latter is due to the use of a varnish, of which the chief ingredient was wax. Distemper pictures are sometimes difficult to distinguish from oil paintings.