The art of the egg


La Primavera by Sandro Botticelli c. 1482 egg tempera on panel Uffizi, Florence 

The egg has enjoyed a long and recurrent role in the history of art. The egg as icon is symbolic of regeneration and new life. The egg yolk has provided the medium to fix pigment for over two millenia. And the egg’s shape has had lasting influence on the decorative arts.

Egg tempera painting, which uses the egg yolk as a medium to fix pigments in forming paint, dates back to the ancient Egyptians and Greeks and was perfected by the icon painters during the last century of the old Byzantine Empire (400 AD-1202 AD). After the fall of the Byzantine Empire, egg tempera flourished for about 200 years in the hands of the early Renaissance artists. With the invention of oil paints in the 16th century, difficult to use tempera fell out of favor.  A revival in the use of temperas began in the late 19th century and continues today.  

Christina’s World  by Andrew Wyeth 1948 tempera on panel

The egg has long been recognized as a symbol of regeneration and new life. The eastern European tradition of decorating eggs at Easter time (the Polish pisanki) has produced beautiful artifacts painstakingly decorated with bees wax and pigment.

pysanky.jpgPisanki © Deirdre Le Blanc

Late 19th Victorian glass manufactures produced thousands of milk glass eggs to celebrate Easter.

milk-glass-egg1.jpg19th century Vicorian milk glass Easter egg

Even the 20th century pop artist Andy Warhol paid tribute to the shape of the egg. This image is taken from a WordPress blog devoted to the bird: Birdy Blog Stuff about Avian Emphemera [sic] (includes eggs)


In the decorative arts Valentina Audrito introduced the sunny-side-up shag carpet at this year’s Milan Furniture Fair. A very nourishing and comforting carpet with its thick shag and rich and glowing golden yolk.


Valentina Audrito’s sunny-side-up shag carpet 

The modPod Egg Chair made its debut at the 1964 World’s Fair in Flushing, NY. The sleek design that was cutting edge in the 1960s is still modern but with retro appeal as well. The chair has devoted followers around the world not just because of its timeless design but thanks to the surround speakers with optional tactile transducer. The listening experience inside the Egg Chair is unlike any other…detailed, immersive, visceral and fun.

And while it still remains unclear as to which came first, the chicken or the egg, it’s evident that no chicken can be without her ChickensSuit®. The ChickensSuit® was displayed for the first time in Nagoya, Japan, where 20 chickens strutted down a runway to strains of Mozart. Five of the designs – in varieties of camouflage, faux fur, knit, and red-and-white patterns inspired by the Japanese and Austrian flags – were made available for purchase. The Website reports that all designs are already sold out. Several farmers have had the suits made with their farms’ names custom embroidered, and reports surfaced that advertisers have expressed interest in using the outfits to advertise everything from chicken soup to KFC. But even the designers admit that the ChickensSuit® “is a gadget that no one needs but everyone wants to have.”


Related links:  The Society of Egg Tempera Painters

Homage to the Egg


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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. The Governess
    Sep 06, 2007 @ 06:40:36

    Haha! Love this blog entry! It’s spring here in NZ, I’m preggers with my first, and expectingthe egg to hatch in Easter 08, so this blog entry is particularly siginificant to me! Funnily enough, the smell of acrylic paint makes me feel quite sick at the moment, so painting is completely out of the question – how tragic is that?!!! I’ll have to make do with reading about art instead. Well done, once again, on this informative article and look forward to the next…


  2. madsilence
    Sep 09, 2007 @ 10:11:15

    What wonderful news! But have you tried watercolor, oil, tempera? Egg tempera & oil produce a warm glow & depth in the painted surface. I know of a number of contemporary artists who are working in egg tempera. Keep well. MadSilence


  3. Katy Chang
    Sep 10, 2007 @ 22:55:30

    This looks like the Decole egg eye pillow I sell in my shop:


  4. MadSilence
    Sep 11, 2007 @ 08:56:16

    Hi Katy Chang, your egg eye pillow is a perfect match for the egg shag rug. I see you also sell sushi erasers. Check out our post, Plastic Food to Savor with the Eye. MadSilence


  5. luba
    Mar 17, 2009 @ 07:38:34

    Just a small note: the decorated egg pictured above is not a Polish pisanka, but a Ukrainian pysanka, as all the links you have added indicated. Many eastern European nations decorate eggs using batik methods for Easter, but the designs are are very site specific.


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