An easel is an upright support used for displaying and/or fixing something resting upon it, at an angle of about 20° to the vertical. In particular, easels are traditionally used by painters to support a painting while they work on it, normally standing up, and are also sometimes used to display finished paintings. Artists' easels are still typically made of wood, in functional designs that have changed little for centuries, or even millennia, though new materials and designs are available. Easels are typically made from wood, aluminum or steel.
Easel painting is a term in art history for the type of midsize painting that would have been painted on an easel, as opposed to a fresco wall painting, or a miniature created sitting at a desk, though perhaps also on an angled support. It does not refer to the way the painting is meant to be displayed; most easel paintings are intended for display framed and hanging on a wall.
In a photographic darkroom, an easel is used to keep the photographic paper in a flat or upright (horizontal, big-size enlarging) position to the enlarger.
The word easel is an old Germanic synonym for donkey (compare similar semantics). In various other languages, its equivalent is the only word for both the animal and the apparatus, such as Afrikaans: esel and earlier Dutch: ezel (the easel generally in full Dutch: schildersezel, "painter's donkey"), themselves cognates of the Latin: asinus (ass).
Easels have been in use since the time of the ancient Egyptians. In the 1st century, Pliny the Elder made reference to a "large panel" placed upon an easel.
Source: Easel from Wikipedia
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