A friend was talking about the word lumeggiare in a libretto they were working on, and so this post. Lumeggiature and rialzi are both used in Italian for the word heightening. Artists generally use lead white paint or white chalk for heightening. The purpose is to create a greater sense of reality by showing a light source, and to highlight an area. Gold heightening could also be used to create a hierarchy or as a straightforward sumptuous decoration. Drawings with gold were probably meant to be sold, given away, or used as a temptation to a patron thinking of a panel picture or other project.
Illuminated manuscripts are full of gold backgrounds and decoration, and, in fact, the artist most associated with gold heightening in drawings is Jacopo Ligozzi (1547 -1637), who had his start as a miniaturist. For over fifty years he worked for the Medici on natural history drawings, alongside panel pictures, decorations ranging from fabrics to pageants, frescoes and more. Just below is one of Ligozzi’s scientific drawings made for the Medici. The fish’s scales are made with liquid gold.
When a drawing has gold heightening, Ligozzi’s name springs to mind. Gold is so much associated with Ligozzi that the drawing below by Palma Giovane (1548/50 – 1628) was once attributed to Ligozzi.