Illumination, the dictionary tells us, means "to bring light, to endow with brilliance, to adorn with burnished gold and brilliant colors as in medieval books."
These great gilded and illuminated volumes, made entirely by hand and requiring the labors of many skilled artisans in every detail of their creation, were lavish works of art. For their fortunate owners they were prized objects, symbols of great wealth, power and status. These books, emblems of preciousness, were embellished with rare colors, silver and gold. Gold—as dots, leaves, letters and polished until it shone like a mirror, reflected back the light of candles and torches in dim Medieval rooms.
Burnished gold defined illumination. Together with their glowing jewel-like miniatures these golden pages became small windows into another world—an expression of faith and devotion.
The term "miniature" conveys the small scale of Wolff ’s illuminations, with their condensed, detailed and personal perspective—within them one can discover intimate landscapes, and distant prospects—miniscule worlds meant to be entered by one viewer at a time. For an artist working in this technique, every brushstroke is a point of focus in a tiny universe.
To quote the artist, "My choice of materials has evolved into a conversation between my era and the past. I use fine calf and goat parchment, prepare my own glues and binders for paint, and gesso for laying gold leaf. To capture the unique quality of Medieval blues and greens I grind azurite, malachite, and lapis lazuli stones to create those colors."
Parchment or Vellum These terms are interchangeable and refer to animal skins which have been prepared for writing and painting. The most commonly used are calf, goat, and sheep skins.
Temper is any substance used to bind together particles of pigment to create a paint.
Glair Egg Eggwhites are beaten until stiff and left to separate. The resulting liquid, called glair, becomes a very strong, flexible, almost waterproof binder.
Gold Leaf comes in various thicknesses, purities, and colors. Karat [K] is the measure of purity with 24K equaling 100 percent pure. Gold is often alloyed with silver and copper to produce other shades from reddish to almost white.
Shell Gold Pure gold ground to a fine powder and mixed with a binder to be used as paint is called shell gold. It was traditionally stored as a droplet in half of a mussel shell.