Definition of tempera in English:



mass noun
  • 1A method of painting with pigments dispersed in an emulsion miscible with water, typically egg yolk. The method was used in Europe for fine painting, mainly on wood panels, from the 12th or early 13th century until the 15th, when it began to give way to oils.

    • ‘He combined the tempera technique (pigment mixed with a binder consisting of egg yolk thinned with water) with a cubist style.’
    • ‘The tempera painting began at the third class period.’
    • ‘To this end, students used tempera to create abstract-expressionist paintings that emphasize the visual elements of line, shape, color, rhythm and composition.’
    • ‘A green mineral, malachite, similar to azurite in constitution and often found with it, was pulverized to form a strong mid-green pigment, particularly in tempera techniques; there was also a synthetic type.’
    • ‘The omission of a discussion of the basics of oil and tempera painting is not the only place where the book seems to address an informed, if not specialist audience.’
    1. 1.1 Emulsion used in tempera painting.
      ‘egg tempera’
      • ‘When the sketches were finished, the students painted them with tempera.’
      • ‘Finally, they painted their shapes with tempera.’
      • ‘With tempera paint, stiff brushes and a knowledge of basic shapes, they are ready to begin creating their masterpieces.’
      • ‘Once the buildings were complete, we painted them with tempera.’
      • ‘This allows the tempera paints to stabilize and soak into the surface of the paper.’


Mid 19th century: from Italian, in the phrase pingere a tempera ‘paint in distemper’.