Naddo Ceccarelli (Italian, active mid-14th century), The Crucifixion, Siena, Italy, 1350/59. Tempera and gold on panel, 76 x 31.6 x 2.5 cm. The Walters Art Museum, Baltimore, MD, bequest of Henry Walters, 1931, 37.737

Gold-ground panel paintings proliferated in the later Middle Ages across Europe, where gold was associated with the divine realm. A small amount of gold could be used to great effect when hammered into thin sheets of gold leaf. In this fashion painters were able to make a grand visual statement with a minimal amount of the precious material, which was imported across great distances. Preparing a wooden panel for gilding was a laborious process. The areas to be gilded were coated with an adhesive (typically bole, a reddish clay) to which the gold leaf was applied and then burnished. Additional decoration could then be incised or stamped into the gold leaf.