Spirit varnish

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A quick-drying protective film produced by solvent evaporation. Early recipes in 16th century Europe used soft natural resins, such as benzoin, anime or balsam dissolved in alcohol. By the 19th century, picture varnishes primarily contained dammar and mastic resins dissolved in turpentine. Popular furniture varnishes contained shellac or copal dissolved in ethanol. Spirit varnishes harden by the evaporation of the solvent to form a clear solid film. Natural resin varnishes yellow and become brittle with age.

Synonyms and Related Terms

barniz al alcohol (Esp.); vernice ad alcol (It); vernice a spirito (It); alcohol varnish; alcohol-resin varnish; French polish; spirit of wine varnish

Sources Checked for Data in Record

  • R. J. Gettens, G.L. Stout, Painting Materials, A Short Encyclopaedia, Dover Publications, New York, 1966
  • G.S.Brady, Materials Handbook, McGraw-Hill Book Co., New York, 1971 Comment: p. 842
  • Reed Kay, The Painter's Guide To Studio Methods and Materials, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1983
  • Ralph Mayer, A Dictionary of Art Terms and Techniques, Harper and Row Publishers, New York, 1969 (also 1945 printing)
  • ASTM, "Standard Terminology Relating to Paint, Varnish, Lacquer and Related Products", Annual Book of ASTM Standards, Section 6, Paints, Related Coatings and Aromatics, ASTM, D16, 7-Jan, Jul-96
  • Dictionary of Building Preservation, Ward Bucher, ed., John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York City, 1996
  • Paint in America, Robert Moss (ed.), John Wiley & Sons, New York, 1994 Comment: Ian Bristow "House Painting in Britain "

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