glossary

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A

Accelerated Perspective:

Coming soon.

Aerial Perspective:

A pictorial effect that creates the illusion of distance in a landscape using tonal variations (paler and softer colours, usually blue) and less defined forms (blurry) closer to the horizon; it replicates a natural phenomena of the eye due to the quantity of moisture in the air; it was generally established in the 15th century, written about by Leon Battista Alberti (1404–1472) and Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519); an early example can be found in da Vinci’s Ginevra de Benci painting.

Aesthetics:

Coming soon.

Alla Prima:

Derived from the Italian phrase that means ‘at first attempt’, alla prima is an oil painting technique in which the painting is completed in one single sitting, from start to finish, while the paint is still wet. Usually painted from life, the technique, either applying thick impastos or thin layers of paint, and became very popular in 19th century Impressionism. The alla prima technique was mostly used for portraits and landscape paintings, and commonly used by plenty of artists such as Paul Cézanne, Claude Monet and John Singer Sargent.

B

Broken Colour:

Coming soon.

C

Cangiante:

Coming soon.

Derived from Italian, Chiaroscuro means ‘”light-dark” (chiaro, “light,” and scuro, “dark”. The technique emerged in the Renaissance, in the “chiaroscuro drawings”, using bold and high contrast between light and dark in the whole composition, modelling light and enhancing the volume of forms. This technique was wonderfully developed, explored and mastered by Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio and Rembrandt. Chiaroscuro can be seen not only in drawings, paintings or printmaking, but can also be applied to photography and cinematography.

Contrapposto:

Coming soon.

D

Disegno:

The Italian term translates to “drawing”, and it’s particularly mentioned by Renaissance artists as means to enhance shape by defining them through lines.

Draughtsman:

Coming soon.

E

Etching:

Coming soon.

F

Fresco:

Coming soon.

G

Genre Painting:

Coming soon.

Giornata:

Coming soon.

Golden Ratio:

Coming soon.

Grisaille:

Coming soon.

H

Hatching:

Coming soon.

I

From the Italian verb “impastare”, which means “to paste”, “impasto” means “dough” or “mixture”, this technique consists in applying paint in thick layers, making brush and painting-knife strokes clearly visible. This texture contributes to an expressive and energetic characteristic of painting, and is traditionally used with oil paint, which has a very thick consistency, but can also be applied with acrylic paint through the addition of thickening mediums. This technique has been employed, more distinguishably since the Vennitian School, by artists like Titian, Tintoretto, and was carried out by others such as Vermeer and Rembrandt. Impasto is an intrinsic part of Impressionism, from which van Gogh jumps out as the most iconic artist. In the 20th century, abstract expressionism served itself of this technique, very recognizable in the works of Hans Hofmann and Willem de Kooning.

L

Laterali:

Term in Italian used during the Renaissance to describe horizontal paintings.

M

Magic Realism:

Coming soon.

Magic Square:

Coming soon.

Memento Mori:

Coming soon.

Mexican Muralism:

Coming soon.

Mezzotint:

Coming soon.

Miniature:

Coming soon.

N

Naïve Art (Primitivism):

Coming soon.

O

Old Masters:

Coming soon.

P

Peristyle & Octastyle:

Coming soon.

Plein air:

Coming soon.

Polyptych (diptych & triptych):

Coming soon.

Prestezza:

Coming soon.

R

Rule of Thirds:

Coming soon.

S

Sfumato:

This technique was invented and perfected by Leonardo da Vinci, and it finds a very good example in the Mona Lisa (c. 1503-1506) painting. Also known as “Leonardo’s smoke”, it consists of the overlapping of many gradual soft delicate touches of the brush on the canvas, using smooth, almost imperceptible transitions from one colour and value to another, through an ultra-subtle tonal gradations, without a crisp separation of edges and lines, resulting in an untraceable brushwork.

Starchitect:

Coming soon.

Stiacciato:

Coming soon.

Sturm und Drang:

Coming soon.

T

The term tempera derives from the Late Latin distemperare “mix thoroughly”, and from the Italian expression dipingere a tempera, “paint in distemper”. This ancient technique was the predicted mural medium in the ancient civilizations of Babylonia, Egypt, Mycenaean Greece, China and in early Christian times. It was mostly employed in mural painting, Egyptian papyrus, Byzantine altarpieces and medieval illuminated manuscripts. As oil paint emerged in Europe, during the Renaissance, the tempera technique became secondary in art. Tempera is given its name because it changes the state of the dry pigments. By “tempering” the dry and grounded pigments with a binding water-miscible agent – usually the yolk or the whites (mostly in illumination) of fresh eggs -, the otherwise hard material is made usable. The use of the egg is why it is also known as Egg Tempera.

Tesserae:

Coming soon.

Trompe L’oeil:

An artistic technique that creates the optical illusion of two-dimensional shapes appearing to have three dimensions, through perspective tricks. It comes from a French expression, meaning “deceives the eye” and is used primarily in painting or architecture. Although the expression had its origin in the Baroque period, when artists frequently used it, the technique itself was already known since antiquity, having been used by the ancient Greeks and Romans in murals, such as those in Pompeii, where the typical trompe-l’oeil mural showed a window, door or corridor for the purpose of visually enlarging the room. With the superior understanding of drawing and perspective techniques achieved after the Renaissance, artists began to use these techniques in their work, exploring the limits between image and reality.

Tronies:

A special form of portrait depicting a model’s head in bust length, often with an expression of grimace, always in front of a neutral background, as an exercise in portraying age, character, decoration or mood.

Troubador Style:

Coming soon.

U

The underpainting is part of the indirect painting technique process, a complex, systematic approach to painting with an oil medium that is created in layers. As its name suggests, the underpainting is the first layer of paint, and it is generally viewed as a tonal layer of the final painting. Traditionally, underpaintings were created using warm earth tones, neutral grays or warm brown, such as the use of raw umber, often mixed with black. In the Flemish schools, the underpainting would traditionally be a gray-toned version of the finished image created over an initial outline drawing. Some of the biggest advocates of this technique were Jan van Eyck, Andrea del Sarto, Leonardo da Vinci and Johannes Vermeer.

Unione:

Coming soon.

V

Vanitas:

The term vanitas derives from the adjective Latin “vanus”, which means “emptiness”, “futility”, “worthlessness”. This painting genre emerged in the middle ages, as funerary art, and evolved to a more explicitly macabre imagery in the 15th century – when the fascination with death and decay increased by the thirst of knowledge of the human body (proper of the Renaissance). Later, vanitas paintings became a crucial part of 16th and 17th centuries netherlandish art, known as the Golden Dutch Age painting. These still life paintings are characterised by the strong moral connotations intrinsic to Christian symbolism, exalting the transience of earthly life. These paintings enhance the futility of pleasure and the certainty of death through ephemeral and vain symbols, and the memento mori presents itself as the main motif. Some of the most common symbols (which represent death, decay and ephemerality of life) are: skulls, rotten fruit, bubbles, hourglasses, musical instruments and seashells.

W

Woodcut:

Coming soon.