Detail of estofado on the robe of Saint Gines de la Jara

Estofado is a decorative technique of scratching through a paint layer to reveal another layer of contrasting color or material below. The steps below were used to create the rich decoration on the gown of Saint Ginés de la Jara.


1. Size—The wood was prepared for the decorative layers with an application of glue size (made from sheepskin). Strips of sheepskin were soaked in water and heated to form a thin liquid size. The size acted as a binding layer, helping to hold the subsequent layers in place.

2. Yeso gruesoYeso grueso (a kind of gesso) is a mixture of glue size and calcium sulfate powder. A soft brush was used to apply the yeso grueso in multiple thin layers to the areas of the robe that were to be gilded. Each layer had to dry before another one was applied.

3. Yeso mateYeso mate is yeso grueso powder that has been slaked (soaked in water) until it becomes pure white and silky smooth. Once dry, the powder is mixed with glue size. Yeso mate was applied wet-on-wet in many thin layers over the entire sculpture.


4. Bole—A red-colored clay mixed with glue size, bole imparts a warm color and a relatively soft surface on which the gold was applied. After the bole was brushed onto all the surfaces of the robe, it was allowed to dry, then polished with a stiff brush.

5. Gold Leaf—When it was time to apply the gold, the bole was moistened, making the glue tacky again. Thin sheets of gold were carefully laid on the bole. After it dried, the gold was burnished (rubbed) to a high shine with a polished agate stone.

Schematic showing the ten layers used in the estofado technique on Saint Gines de la Jara


6. Gray tempera paint—Lead white and charcoal pigments were mixed with raw whole egg to make a preparation paint layer. All the gold was covered with the gray.

7. Dark brown tempera paint—Three pigments—iron red, umber, and charcoal—were combined to create the dark brown paint layer, which was applied over the gray.


8. Applying designs—Designs were drawn on a sheet of paper or parchment, and fine holes were pierced through the sheet along the lines of the pattern. The sheet was then placed over the brown tempera surface. A small cloth pouch filled with dry pigment—called a pouncing pad—was stamped onto the pattern, transferring the design through the holes and onto the painted surface.

9. Revealing the gold—Following the pattern lines, the tempera paint was scraped away, exposing the polished gold. The ends of wooden styluses were shaped to form scratching tools that could create lines of varying thicknesses.

10. Highlighting volume with punches and paint—To enhance the impression of three-dimensional fabric, texture was created in the gold by stamping with iron punches. Thin strokes of white and black tempera were used to mimic light and shadow on the "raised" elements. The end of each punch was shaped to impart a distinct pattern onto the gold. Five different punches were used on the figure—two rounds, two ovals, and a rosette. A fine paintbrush was used to apply the black and white highlights.