Zecchi’s Antichi Maestri Medium

Zecchi is now selling the medium I recommend pre-mixed to save painters the trouble of making their own. The recipe is the usual: 1 part Canada balsam cut with 1 part turpentine, and then that mixture is added to 2 parts Zecchi sun-thickened linseed oil. The item number is 3882 ” Medium Antichi Maestri” and the price is €12 for a 125ml bottle and €22,50 euro for the 250ml bottle. (They ship abroad too, check out their website for more details).

I tried to get them to name it after Theodore de Mayerne or to call it the “Cecilian medium” as Charles Cecil developed a similar version (adding mastic varnish) based on his reading of de Mayerne’s manuscript on 17th century painting techniques but no dice.

‘Old Master Medium’ is so trite.



    • Its a great lay-in medium when cut with turpentine. It fuses the paint the right amount during the middle stages. Its great for glazing at the end (diffusing the pigment). It doesn’t yellow too badly and it dries pretty fast without going either too matte or too glossy.

      The balsam should also resist cleaning attempts by restorers in the future.

  1. Hi Marc
    I just wonder, if you know, how does lead White paint compare to zinc White.
    I use Titanium for plein Air so am well acquainted with that. I have some Zinc which is more translucent in comparison
    Also is there another name for Canada Balsam, and what is it made from. I’ve never heard of it here in the UK.

    Best regards

    • I think zinc is considered bluer than lead white, though I’ve never tried zinc. Both lead and zinc cover less than titanium. I used titanium outside and lead for studio work. There are also theories about lead changing the chemical composition of the whole painting to make it magically last forever.

      Canada Balsam comes from some fir tree in Canada. It is used in some industry so the quality available to painters is very high. Strasbourg (or Venice) turpentine was the local European variant before there was a Canada, but the supplies are often of very poor quality. Cornellison on Great Russell Street in London used to sell Canada Balsam.

  2. Thanks! Think I’ll get some lead to try as well, I want to get into some portrait work, so may as well have best material fit for purpose.
    Actually I have some Venetian Turpentine, a thick treacly like pungent (Mmm!) substance which always seems to remain tacky. I use it in beeswax, preparing stained glass palettes, another story. I’ll consider experimenting with it in a oil painting medium. I’ll get Cornellisons catalog as well.

  3. I would avoid the Venice turps Andrew. People who have used it have had their paintings crack. The old texts describe it as a straw color, but the stuff you find today is really brown.

  4. Hi Marc,
    I was watching the painting video on making your medium. I use a medium of just stand oil and mineral spirits, but I’m wondering how the Canada Balsam would change the feel of it or what else it does besides strengthening the paint layer as you mention in your comment about conservators?

    Not that I seem to be able to find any even if I want to use some….

  5. That sun thickened oil you use when mixing up the paint medium recipe you recommend is quite peculiar looking. It resembles orange juice. I’ve made sun thickened linseed oil and it’s never looked like that.

  6. Hello Marc,
    I have been admiring your paintings for a while now, very impressive to say the least. I was wondering if the gesso panels you get from Zecchi are of the traditional kind, i.e. hide glue and whiting applied to a wood substrate?
    Also, my wife and I will be in Italy the last two weeks of this month, and was wondering if you could suggest some good art schools to visit while we’re there. We’ll visit Milan,Venice, and Florence. It would also be nice to meet you in person if you’re going to be in one of those cities when we are.
    Thanks for having such an informative website,and for posting the great videos as well. Best wishes,

    • Hi Ray, yes the Zecchi panels are Italian gesso (chalk and rabbit-skin glue) on plywood panels.

      The schools in Florence where I worked are the Florence Academy of Art and Charles H. Cecil Studios. I won’t be back in Italy until November, but have a great trip.

  7. Hi Marc. I noticed that Zecchi no longer sell a medium Antichi Maestri based on Canada Balsam. It is now based on Venetian balsam. Do you know whether the difference is significant enough to justify ordering the Canada balsam alone and mixing the medium myself?

    • I would make it myself. Venetian turpentine is terrible. Or wait a bit, there was a moment when Canada balsam was hard to find, but now it’s back in stock everywhere.

  8. Hi Marc,

    I don’t know if you are still replying to these, but whenever I have ordered this medium and had it sent to the UK, and also when I have made it myself, I always end up with a sort of large blob of resin in the bottom of the jar, presumably messing up the concentrations in the mixture. Why? What am I doing wrong? Any thoughts would be much appreciated. Many thanks, Nick Power

    • Hi Nick, that happens to me too. I find when I mix the solvent and balsam first, and add the oil to it, the blob is much smaller. At any rate, after a while the blob sinks to the bottom and almost disappears (in my experience), and I’ve never had issues with the medium misbehaving.

  9. Hi Marc, sorry I know this is an old post but I read it a few days ago without checking the date or reading the comments below and then went ahead and ordered some of the medium from Zecchi. I’ve now just read your comment regarding the Venetian balsam so I’m feeling a bit deflated. I bought a litre of the stuff too to make it worthwhile getting it shipped to the UK. I hope it won’t be quite as bad as you say (I’ve no experience of either Canada balsam or Venetian balsam before so I’ve nothing to compare it to). Anyhow, I’d really like to know if I can only use turps/lavender spike oil alongside the medium when painting or if can I use mineral spirits too? I’ve heard some mediums such as ones containing dammar resin cannot be mixed with OMS. Thanks for having such an informative website and being so generous with your knowledge.

    • Hi Daniel,

      In the past Zecchi has been able to get good quality Venice turpentine from time to time, so it’s possible that’s what they’re using now. If it’s good stuff it shouldn’t be a problem.

      Also, many of the issues people have had with Venice turpentine was from using it in different mediums than this one. With this particular recipe I don’t have any personal experience as to the longevity.

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