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[jes-oh] /ˈdʒɛs oʊ/
noun, plural gessoes.
gypsum or plaster of Paris prepared with glue for use as a surface for painting.
any plasterlike preparation to prepare a surface for painting, gilding, etc.
a prepared surface of plaster or plasterlike material for painting, gilding, etc.
Origin of gesso
1590-1600; < Italian < Latin gypsum gypsum Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for gesso
  • His monochromatic work is executed with graphite sticks and gesso washes, merging drawing with painting.
  • Along a corridor, gilders are delicately brushing gold leaf onto gesso-coated poles.
  • Others are presented on the sides of gesso-primed wooden cubes, suggesting specimen drawers used by collectors.
  • The nail is first hammered into the surface, then countersunk, and the resulting hole filled with gesso putty or additional compo.
  • Instead, the artists were taught to paint with tempera on wooden panels that were first treated with gesso.
  • The surface of the painted gesso plaster was textured by designs impressed with punching tools.
  • Once the pot is bone dry, it can be covered with acrylic gesso to seal the surface.
  • Although quick drying, egg tempera was difficult to apply and especially difficult to change once on the gesso panels he used.
  • Below the corbels is a rectangular mirror in a gesso frame angled downward to reflect the animals and their riders.
  • White gesso was the base paint, then a metallic gold.
British Dictionary definitions for gesso


a white ground of plaster and size, used esp in the Middle Ages and Renaissance to prepare panels or canvas for painting or gilding
any white substance, esp plaster of Paris, that forms a ground when mixed with water
Word Origin
C16: from Italian: chalk, gypsum
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for gesso

plaster of Paris, 1590s, from Italian gesso, from Latin gypsum (see gypsum).

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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