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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.
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
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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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Encyclopedia Article for gesso

(Italian: "gypsum," or "chalk"), fluid, white coating composed of plaster of paris, chalk, gypsum, or other whiting mixed with glue, applied to smooth surfaces such as wood panels, plaster, stone, or canvas to provide the ground for tempera and oil painting or for gilding and painting carved furniture and picture frames. In Medieval and Renaissance tempera painting, the surface was covered first with a layer of gesso grosso (rough gesso) made with coarse, unslaked plaster, then with a series of layers of gesso sottile (finishing gesso) made with fine plaster slaked in water, which produced an opaque, white, reflective surface

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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