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Term applied to a drawn or painted representation of the human figure, most commonly made as part of the instruction in an academy or art school. Although the practice of making drawings from nude models had developed during the Renaissance and was commended by such theorists as Alberti, it was only with the foundation of academies of painting in the 17th century that such drawing became formalized as part of a rigorous programme of training. Indeed, by the mid-18th century, the word ‘académie’ was defined in Diderot’s Encyclopédie as ‘a public school where painters go to draw or paint, and sculptors to model, after a nude man called the model’. In France one of the principal means by which the Académie Royale de Peinture et de Sculpture asserted its predominance was by maintaining a monopoly on life classes. After the student had mastered the difficulties of copying engravings and plaster casts, he was set to draw from the nude figure under the supervision of the professor. The model was almost invariably male because female models were forbidden at the Académie Royale, and elsewhere they were extremely expensive to hire. Classes lasted two hours, and the pose was usually changed twice a week. The student began by drawing with red chalk on white paper and later progressed to black chalk on tinted papers, applying white chalk for highlights. Such drawing was an exercise in shading, hatching, graining and stumping, and increasingly the results became so homogeneous in style that unsigned examples are almost impossible to attribute. Painted academy figures (...

Article

Kenneth B. Roberts

Depictions of the structure of the human body as shown by dissection. The study of anatomy (Gk.: ‘cutting apart’) has informed and stimulated European artists since the Renaissance and has also led to many remarkable feats of illustration.

Anatomy was being practised at Alexandria c. 300 bc, but no images remain from the Classical world. Illustrations demonstrating anatomy occur in European manuscripts from the 12th century onwards. They are sometimes grouped in a series of five or six diagrams of the complete human figure, each showing a frog-like, or squatting, posture. Examples of this series bear a family resemblance, showing that they were copied from earlier examples. It has been suggested that they derive from early Alexandrian originals. Similarly squatting figures occur in many cultures, possibly without connection. The frog-like series in European, and likewise in Persian and Indian manuscripts, include separate figures for representing the skeleton, arteries, veins, nerves and muscles, and often also a pregnant woman. These figures are not observations of bodily structures as seen in dissection but rather symbolic representations of the subject-matter of anatomy, ...

Article

Cartoon  

Shirley Millidge

Drawing, sometimes coloured, made specifically as a pattern for a painting, textile or stained-glass panel. It is produced on the same scale as the final work and is usually fairly detailed. The transfer of the image works best if the drawing in the cartoon is of a linear nature and if the composition has crisp, clear outlines.

In painting there are two methods of transferring a cartoon to the support, which may be a canvas, panel or wall. The first is similar to Tracing. The back of the cartoon is rubbed over with chalk; the paper is attached to the support; and the main lines are drawn over with a stylus, thus transferring the chalk from the back of the cartoon to the new support. In the second method, which is called Pouncing, the main lines of the cartoon are pricked through with a needle or stylus, the size and closeness of the holes varying according to the detail in the drawing. Sometimes in order to preserve the drawn cartoon, a supplementary cartoon or ...

Article

Claire Pace

Controversy that developed in Italy in the 16th century over the relative merits of design or drawing (It. disegno) and colour (colore). It was fundamentally a debate over whether the value of a painting lay in the idea originating in the artist’s mind (the invention), which was explored through drawings made prior to the painting’s execution, or in the more lifelike imitation of nature, achieved through colour and the process of painting itself.

The disegno e colore debate focused on the rivalry between the two dominant traditions of 16th-century Italian painting, Central Italian and Venetian. Central Italian, especially Florentine, painting depended on drawing and on the use of preparatory studies and cartoons, and the depiction of the human figure was the supreme test of an artist’s skill; Venetian painters built up their pictures directly on the canvas, creating a more spontaneous and expressive art. The difference between the two approaches was formulated in the writings of ...

Article

Elizabeth Allen

[draperyman.]

Independent specialist in the painting of draperies, usually employed by a portrait painter with a large portrait practice; to be distinguished from assistants who were members of a workshop or studio. In the traditional Renaissance workshop an established master undertook the comprehensive training of apprentices and equipped them with all the skills necessary for an independent artist. The emergence of specialist drapery painters was a consequence of the breakdown of the apprenticeship system. An increasing dependence on technical manuals suggests that this occurred in Holland after c. 1660. The situation is less clear in other countries. For instance, in 18th-century France, workshops such as that of Hyacinthe(-François-Honoré-Mathias-Pierre-André-Jean) Rigaud were extensive and well-organized, with experts, including drapery painters, executing their own specialized parts of each portrait. For other 18th-century French painters, such as Nicolas de Largillierre, the present state of research is inconclusive.

Little direct evidence survives to show the structure and organization of the English workshop during the 16th century, and therefore the role of assistants remains obscure. The most important artists in ...

Article

Fresco  

Gianluigi Colalucci

Wall painting technique in which pigments are dissolved in water only and then applied to fresh, wet lime plaster (the intonaco). As the wall dries, the calcium hydroxide of the plaster combines with carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to form calcium carbonate. During this process the pigments become an integral part of the wall, forming a fine, transparent, vitreous layer on its surface. Fresco is particularly vulnerable to damp and for this reason is suitable only for dry climates. This article discusses the technique as systematized in Italy from the 14th century; for its history, development and variations elsewhere, as well as the conservation of fresco, see Wall painting §I.

Fresco painting was technically demanding and was usually carried out on a large scale, so the painter had to be accurate in drawing up his composition and capable of organizing a team of skilled hands, from the masons to the assistant painters who were assigned the less important parts of the work....

Article

Rupert Featherstone

Term for the addition of white or a pale tone on top of a darker tone or background colour to complete the depiction of form in a painting or drawing. During the Renaissance an application of lead white in an aqueous medium was used, for instance, to heighten drawings in metalpoint on tinted paper; this lead white often oxidizes, negating the original function of the heightening, but the process is reversible through conservation....

Article

Martin Postle

Person subjecting his or her body to an artist’s observation. A tradition of working from living models, begun in Classical times, was revived in Europe in the Renaissance and was an important feature of academic practice until the 20th century.

The model, in the academic sense, was from its inception until the 19th century synonymous with the male figure. The earliest recorded reference to artists’ models comes from Pliny the elder, who states that ‘nude statues holding a spear’ were ‘modelled after young men in the gymnasium’. But earlier than this, Greek sculptors had drawn on empirical observation and imitation of the nude male, using the individual as the basis for the construction of an aesthetic ideal. Polykleitos, for example, whose system of proportions for the human figure was embodied in a treatise (the Canon) and a statue (the Doryphoros, late 5th century bc; copy, Naples, Mus. Archeol. N.), based his work exclusively on the male nude. There was, by way of contrast, no attempt to quantify the beauty of the female form. The female model was regarded, as the earliest references indicate, in a highly subjective manner. Commonly assumed to be the artist’s mistress, she was regarded as a physical embodiment of his muse. ...

Article

Obelisk  

Erik Iversen

[Gr.: ‘little spit’]

Square or rectangular shaft, usually monolithic, with tapering sides and a pyramidal apex, first developed in Egypt in the 3rd millennium bc but also popular in Europe in Roman times, the Renaissance and the 19th century.

The Egyptian name for the obelisk was tekhen, from a verb meaning ‘pierce’, while its apex, clearly considered as a distinct part, was known as ben or benben. The interpretation of this term is controversial: according to one theory, it derived from the verb ben, which originally meant ‘shine’, ‘radiate’ or ‘reflect’. Thus, like the capstone of a pyramid, the function of the apex would have been to reflect or absorb the rays of the sun, charging the obelisk with solar energy and reviving the person whose name was inscribed on its shaft. In the case of the truncated obelisks placed in sun temples, such as that at Abu Ghurab, this pyramidion would guarantee the physical presence of the sun god in his sanctuary; in this context, it is significant that, in ancient representations of obelisks, the sun disc is often seen resting on or emerging from the apex....

Article

Catherine Hassall

Method of painting using pigments dispersed in oil. It is not known how oil painting was first developed, but in Western Europe there are indications of its use from at least the 12th century ad, and it was widely used from the Renaissance. This article discusses the characteristics and development of oil painting in Western Europe (for its use elsewhere see under relevant country surveys).

See under Conservation and restoration for technical details regarding the deterioration and restoration of oil paintings.

Only some oils have a chemical composition that allows them to dry to a solid film, and even these can take several weeks or even months to dry (see Oils, drying). Drying time can be speeded up by certain processes, for example heating the freshly pressed oil in air to give boiled or blown oils, or heating the oil in the absence of air to produce stand oils. This viscous material is then usually combined not only with the pigment but also various modifying painting media (...

Article

Claire Farago

[It.: ‘comparison’: figuratively, a test or trial]

Term used to refer specifically to the rivalry of the arts of painting and sculpture. In 1817 in Manzi’s edition of Leonardo da Vinci’s Trattato della pittura the word appeared as the title to Leonardo’s witty defence of painting against the arts of poetry, music and sculpture, although it had not had this association before. Polemical comparisons of the arts are widely documented in 16th-century sources, yet a comprehensive work on the subject has never been attempted.

Many historians have viewed the arguments as merely superficial, rhetorical formulae. However, the writings associated with the term paragone are significant because they provided an arena to discuss artistic procedures in theoretical terms. Major personalities such as Leon Battista Alberti, Leonardo and Giorgio Vasari recorded opinions that anticipate the modern classification of the fine arts, systematized in the 18th century (Kristeller).

Renaissance paragoni extend the Classical literary theory of parallels between the arts of painting and poetry to the visual arts (...

Article

Article

Portico  

Richard Riddell

Term used in Western architecture for a covered area before the entrance to a building, of grander proportions than a simple porch and usually forming the central element in the façade. Porticoed buildings from the Renaissance onwards typically allude to the forms of Classical architecture, and the portico itself, open to the elements on one or three sides, has the appearance of a temple entrance, often with a triangular Pediment supported by columns. In the 18th and 19th centuries especially it became a major leitmotif of Western architecture. In Classical Greek and Roman contexts the term portico can also describe a free-standing roofed colonnade, of the kind used for shelter in public spaces such as market places and sanctuaries (see Stoa).

In Greek temples the porch or vestibule at the entrance is termed the pronaos (see fig.). At some point in later architectural writings in Latin this came to be translated as ...

Article

Carmen Bambach Cappel

[Fr.: poncer; It.: spolvero]

Transfer process in which powder or dust is rubbed through a pricked design, creating a dotted underdrawing on the surface beneath. Though primarily known as an Italian Renaissance technique for translating designs from a Cartoon to the moist plaster in Fresco painting, pouncing had a wide application in the work of artists, craftsmen and amateurs. Draughtsmen, easel painters, illuminators, embroiderers, lacemakers, ceramicists, printmakers and writing-masters used pouncing to duplicate their designs. The drawing to be reproduced was placed over the working surface (paper, cloth, wall or panel), and the outlines of the design were pricked with a pointed implement such as a needle or stylus and rubbed with pounce (powder or dust of black chalk, charcoal or pumice if the support was light; of white chalk, gesso or light pumice powder if the support was dark) contained in a pouncing bag (a small cloth pouch with its end tied). The advantages of pouncing compensated for the laboriousness of the task: precise correspondence between drawing and final work was assured; a painter could delegate the task to an assistant; and once a drawing was pricked it could be reused to repeat designs or, by pouncing the verso, to create symmetrical patterns and complementary figures. ...

Article

Art form developed in Renaissance Italy. It refers to a drawing created as a finished work of art, rather than as a stage in the preparation or development of a work in another medium. The term was invented by Johannes Wilde to describe certain specific works by Michelangelo, but examples by other artists are known, and, as a whole, the existence of the type constitutes an interesting and important stage in the history of drawing.

The earliest known instances of Renaissance drawings apparently created as finished works are two scenes of religious narrative, datable to the early 1420s, by Lorenzo Monaco: the Visitation and the Journey of the Magi (both Berlin, Kupferstichkab.), in pen and ink with coloured washes and some heightening. (The Visitation even has a painted frame to emphasize its autonomy.) These drawings may have been linked with Lorenzo’s training as a manuscript illuminator; certainly they remained isolated examples in Central Italy for several decades. Studio practice in North Italy was fundamentally different and led directly to an appreciation of the independent existence of drawings. Pattern- or model-books, usually containing a range of drawings often created for future reference, became valuable studio heirlooms, for example that begun by ...

Article

Article

Nigel Gauk-Roger

[It.: ‘sacred conversation’]

Term applied to a type of religious painting, depicting the Virgin and Child flanked on either side by saints, which developed during the 15th and 16th centuries and is associated primarily with the Italian Renaissance. The specific characteristics of the genre are that the figures, who are of comparable physical dimensions, seem to co-exist within the same space and light, are aware of each other and share a common emotion. This relationship is conveyed, with greater or lesser emphasis, by gesture and expression. The compositions are usually frontal and centralized, and are distinguished by an aura of stillness and meditation.

In late medieval and early Renaissance art Central Italian polyptychs had generally consisted of a main panel of the Virgin and Child enthroned, flanked by smaller panels showing individual figures of saints; large altarpieces often had small scenes of related narrative below (predellas) and sometimes also above. Usually the panels were divided and surrounded by a frame of a consistent architectonic pattern. Main and lesser figures were differentiated in terms of size and, set against a gold background, seemed to exist beyond space and time....

Article

Ellen Callmann

[from It. spalla: ‘shoulder’, backrest of a piece of furniture]

Term applied to Tuscan 15th- and early 16th-century painted wall panels. Originally the term denoted panels that were set into the wall panelling at head or shoulder height above the backrest of a piece of furniture. It was later extended to include panel paintings set into the wall and was an integral part of the wainscoting. With few exceptions, spalliere are characterized by their size and shape—larger than cassone panels and proportionally higher, but still two to three times as long as high. A good example is the panel known as the Adimari Wedding (630×1800 mm; Florence, Accad.), now attributed to Scheggia and possibly dating from the 1450s. These pictures were installed above a piece of furniture, such as one or more cassoni, a bed or a lettuccio (a high-backed bench with a chest below the seat that doubled as a narrow bed). Schiaparelli (1908) distinguished between ...

Article

Janis Callen Bell

Term of modern origin deriving from tenebroso (It. and Sp.: ‘dark’), used to describe a style of 17th-century painting characterized by much dark shadow and few light areas. The concept developed from the study of Chiaroscuro, in which Renaissance writers, paraphrasing optical texts, distinguished shadow (ombra) from total darkness (tenebra). Thus Ghiberti: ‘Tenebra is a total absence of light; it is not possible to see in the tenebre as it is in shadow’, and Leonardo da Vinci: ‘Shadow is a diminution of light; tenebre is the absence of light’. ‘Tenebroso’ was used pejoratively from the 17th century until the end of the 19th to criticize the unnatural chiaroscuro of Caravaggio, Rembrandt and their imitators. Zaccolini, writing c. 1622, stated: ‘Without the tempering of reflected light, the shadowy space will not seem to be a shadow but will appear to be total darkness, as in night time. This is not a good imitation of nature, but rather makes a crude, cutting manner.’ Lanzi, looking back on the 17th century in ...

Article

Tondo  

[It.: ‘circle’]

Circular painting or relief carving. It developed as an independent form in Florence in the first half of the 15th century. However, earlier examples of the circular form do exist, for example in France with Jean Malouel’s Pietà (Paris, Louvre) which dates c. 1400. Many of the surviving Italian tondi depict themes that also occurred on the desco da parto, from which the tondo may have evolved. This was a circular or polygonal painted tray made to celebrate the birth of a child and presented to the mother with gifts of sweetmeats and fruit. Tondi paintings were produced in Florence primarily for domestic settings, with the Adoration of the Magi and the Virgin and Child being particularly popular subjects (see fig.). Among the earliest surviving tondi are Luca della Robbia’s terracotta relief of the Virgin and Child with Two Angels (c. 1428; Oxford, Ashmolean) and Domenico Veneziano’s circular panel painting of the ...