More Stripes

November 28th, 2013 § Comments Off on More Stripes § permalink

It’s surprising we don’t talk of stripists and stripism because so many 20th artists, and especially American ones, worked with stripes. Barnett Newman, Myron Stout, Agnes Martin, Ellsworth Kelly, Jasper Johns, Dan Flavin, and Frank Stella are some.

Ellsworth Kelly - Awnings, Avenue Matignon 1950

Ellsworth Kelly – Awnings, Avenue Matignon – 1950 – Graphite, brush and gouache on paper – 133 x 210 mm – Museum of Modern Art, NY – Inv. ref. 496.1997

Striped cloth and flags, rows of text, shelves of books, prison bars and uniforms, and skyscrapers could be things behind the stripes, but stripes in themselves, without reference to striped things, became enough of a subject for many artists—and for their publics.

Ellsworth Kelly - Fourteen Projects 1955

Ellsworth Kelly – Fourteen Projects – 1955 – Graphite, brush and gouache on paper – Private Collection

Egon Schiele’s approach to stripes bridges traditional and modern art. Schiele and Schiele’s subjects were fond of stripes. The drawing just below, its title, Reclining Nude Girl in a Striped Frock [Liegender Mädchenakt im gestreiften Kittel] has arresting stripes.

Egon Schiele – Reclining Nude Girl in Striped Frock – Graphite, brush and watercolor on paper – 443 × 306 mm – Ortner Collection, Vienna

They work as pattern fields, much the way Klimt used richly encrusted cloth—they’re not there to define the body underneath. The title, and I do not know if it’s Schiele’s title, is apt since it echoes the two-sided character of stripes—that they’re neither one thing nor another, and the girl is described as both being naked and in a striped frock. It is an ambiguous title and subject. I wouldn’t know how to title the drawing.

Another drawing of Schiele’s that features stripes is the one below of his wife Edith. (There are at least two photographs of Edith wearing the dress of the drawing.) Here the stripes, and the breaks in the stripes, do more to define Edith’s figure and this makes it closer to the traditions of 19th century and earlier art.

Egon Schiele - Edith with Striped Dress, Sitting - 1915 - Graphite, brush and gouache on paper - 402 x 508 mm - Leopole Museum, Vienna

Egon Schiele – Edith with Striped Dress, Sitting – 1915 – Graphite, brush and gouache on paper – 402 x 508 mm – Leopole Museum, Vienna

Closer, say, to the 18th century Watteau drawing of a reclining woman in British Museum, where the direction of the stripe segments give full meaning to what’s below. They are a kind of hatching.

Antonie Watteau - British Museum

Antoine Watteau – A Woman in a Striped Dress, Seen from Behind, Reclining on the Ground– Red and black chalks and graphite – 146 x 181 mm – British Museum Ref. 1895,0915.936

Watteau’s drawing of a Persian in a turban is especially wonderful because of the zigzags and hatching that make up the bold stripe of the man’s jacket. Watteau did his drawing in France, but the slightly younger Swiss artist, Etienne Liotard, lived in Constantinople and saw turbaned Ottomans firsthand. Many of his sitters, both men and women, wear opulent striped clothes and rest on comfortable-looking sofas. Domenico Tiepolo, a near contemporary of Liotard’s, also drew turbaned people dressed in stripes, Venice being a crossroads for east and west. Examples of Domenico Tiepolo’s stripes can be found in an earlier post.

Antoine Watteau - Seated Persian - Red and black chalks on laid paper and laid down - 300 x 200 mm - Louvre RF 36735

Antoine Watteau – Seated Persian – Red and black chalks on laid paper and laid down – 300 x 200 mm – Louvre RF 36735

Michel Pastoreau wrote a book on stripes, engagingly titled The Devil’s Cloth: a History of Stripes. From a quick look, I understand that he concentrates on striped cloth in France, beginning in the Medieval period, when stripes were associated with the devil and such outcasts as prostitutes and lepers. This continued, at least in France, until the 18th century, when stripes became favored throughout society because of flags/patriotism/nationalism. This must be a terrible oversimplification, but it is interesting because in the 18th century, there was this burgeoning of stripes.

Neither relating to flags or the east, are these two drawings by Giuseppe Maria Crespi. They are illustrations for a tale about a boy named Cacasenno and his family. It’s a story about three generations of country people, who lack sophistication, but who are at times terrifically sensible (very close to the storylines of TV sitcoms). The whole series of drawings is in Bologna and viewable online here. The watercolors are derived from a series of drawings and etched illustrations. They were probably for a deluxe edition commissioned by a collector, although the Genus Bononaie site relates that Roberto Longhi had the idea that they were for ceramics. The Metropolitan has a preparatory drawing for the etching, where Cacasenno’s mother wears a plain dress, as in the etching. To enliven the richly ornamental watercolor, Crespi added the stripes.


Giuseppe Maria Crespi

Giuseppe Maria Crespi – Cacasenno with his Mother – 193 x 151 mm and Cacasenno Pacified by a Piece of Castangaccio – 197 x 149 mm – Black chalk underdrawing, brush and watercolor on paper


Finding drawings with stripes before the 18th century becomes more difficult, even in Italy. There are frescoes and paintings, such as Raphael’s Mass at Bolsena, with the Swiss Guards in their wide stripes; Raphael’s Madonna della Seggiola with stripes that make one think of Palestine; and the Master of the Pala Sforzesca’s painting at the Brera, where Beatrice d’Este wears wide devil-may-care stripes.

Mantegna Drawing at Prato Auction

October 23rd, 2013 § Comments Off on Mantegna Drawing at Prato Auction § permalink

Farsettiarte, an auction house known for 20th century art and design, will be offering a drawing attributed to Mantegna in an 8 November sale in Prato. Maddeningly, the lot can’t yet be viewed online. However, ArtsLife and Art Daily provide images and details. Here are images of the drawing:

Mantegna - Lamentation - Farsettiarte

Mantegna – Lamentation – Pen and brown ink on laid paper – 151 x 100 mm


Mantegna – Pietà (verso) – Pen and brown ink on laid paper – 151 x 100 mm – “31 [V]ol 1 Mantegna” inscribed along upper edge

Just below are too small images of the Mantegna drawing at Brescia, which the above sheet is being compared to. The writing is apparently the same, and both versos share red wax dots used for affixing the works into an album. The Farsetti dots are barely visible.

Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 23.44.10

Mantegna – Lamentation – Candlestick – Pen and brown ink on laid paper – 130 x 95 mm – “37 Vol 1 Mantegna” inscribed on verso – Pinacoteca Tosio Martinengo, Brescia

And here is the British Museum drawing:

Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 23.45.32

Mantegna – Three studies for a dead Christ, the body lying on the ground – Pen and brown ink on laid paper – 122 x 88 mm – British Museum ref. no. 1909,0406.3

Screen Shot 2013-10-22 at 23.45.19

Mantegna – Two Holy women, seated on the ground, one seen from behind (verso) – Pen and brown ink on laid paper – 122 x 88 mm – British Museum ref. no. 1909,0406.3

David Ekserdjian helped Farsetti with the catalogue entry and is writing an article on the drawing.

Biblioteca Nacional de España – Digital Collections

March 30th, 2013 § Comments Off on Biblioteca Nacional de España – Digital Collections § permalink

Mostly, drawings are in housed in museum collections, but if you live in a city like Turin, with its Biblioteca Reale; or Milan, with its Biblioteca Ambrosiana; you know that rich collections of drawings are also found in libraries. Paper is the common denominator and it’s worth remembering that drawings were kept in albums before they were put in mats and solander boxes.

The Biblioteca Nacional de España, which is celebrating its 300 anniversary, has made available a wonderful database of their collections. They have about 3,500 drawings online. The work of digitizing the collection began in 2008 and this month it launched the new interface. There are many ways to search. I filtered for drawings from between 1550 and 1600, and useful subcategories of drawings in pen, preparatory drawings, mythological drawings, drawings in albums, drawings of flowers, and many others appeared on the left of the screen. The images that appear are high resolution and can be magnified.

Among its riches is the Madrid Codex of Leonardo. It is full of drawings of pulleys, cogs, wheels–the stuff of industrial design–but of unimaginable fascination. There are places in the codex where the drawings are labeled with a + sign, where if you click on it, a short animation of the machine’s action appears.

After the Antique

June 27th, 2011 § Comments Off on After the Antique § permalink

“After the Antique” like “Allegorical Subject” have to be among the most useful titles. Right up there with the 20th century favorite “Untitled.” The drawing by the Danish artist Melchior Lorck, just below, shows a group of draped figures (“draped figure” is also terrifically generic and useful).  Lorck drew  it in 1552, the year he visited Rome. The figures are fragmentary, all are headless and many have lost their arms, making them more difficult to identify. The Muse Melpomene at the center of the drawing holds a theatrical mask and as a consequence is much easier to recognize than the others. Since the mask is part of the main shaft, and not an extremity, it has survived. Often, people who study classical art are good at identifying figures even if they are without heads and attributes. The stance, and dress tell a lot.

Melchior Lorck (1526/27-after 1583) | Eighteen Studies after the Antique | Pen and gray-brown ink, brush and wash | 266 x 190 mm | Statens Museum for Kunst | Copenhagen

The table below has some electronic resources for studying ancient sculpture and drawings (documents as they’re called by scholars of the antique). I hope to add more links here.


Resource LINKInstitution Behind ProjectDetail
Bibliotheca HertzianaBibliotheca Hertziana, RomeDigital library to digitized books to Antike Kunst. Works by Pietro Santo Bartoli, Domenico Augusto Bracci. Adding
Census of Antique Works of Art and Architecture Known in the RenaissanceBerlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften Combined with corpus of ancient art known in the Middle Ages and Winkelmann, Corpus
Monumenta Rariora: La fortuna della statuaria anticaScuola Normale Superiore, PisaGiovan Battista Cavalieri, Girolamo Franzini, Lorenzo and Andrea Vaccaro, François Perrier, Paolo Alessandro Maffei, and Dominic Magnan
Musei Capitolini, RomeMusei Capitolini, Rome25,000 images and adding
Speculum Romanae MagnificentiaeUniv. of ChicagoPublisher Antonio Lafreri's 1570s engravings after Roman art and architecture. +1,000 prints



Often draftsman would not be copying any specific work, but instead found broad inspiration in the antique. “All’antica” is what it’s called and the danger is that one could be looking for a sculpture that never existed in the first place.

Blue Paper | Carta Azzurra

February 18th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

Soon after the introduction of paper, artists were applying chalky colored grounds to create metalpoints and tinting the surface of paper for ink and chalk drawings.  The earliest European papers are white or cream or ivory, depending on how one sees them. The earliest drawing on a piece of blue paper, blue through and through, is a drawing in Dresden (detail below).  The drawing is by Giovanni da Modena, who, most notably, painted frescoes in Bologna’s San Petronio. It’s dated to around 1410-20 and has been gone over, or reinforced, by later hands. Still, there’s a lot to the drawing. It’s on a single piece of paper, measuring 460 mm across, which makes it extraordinarily large.

Giovanni da Modena | Procession, detail of | 1410-20 | Traces of black chalk, pen and brown ink, brush and brown wash, white heightening, on blue laid paper, with some pricking | 342 x 460 mm | Kupferstich-Kabinett | Dresden

Ceninno Cennini was writing his manual for artists shortly before the Giovanni da Modena drawing was made, and speaks at length about carta tinta, but not about dyed paper. His method for tinting paper blue, what he termed carta di tinta indica involves mixing white with indigo, 2 fava bean size lumps of indigo. Indigo, as it sounds, was imported from India, and had been since antiquity. The Giovanni da Modena drawing’s blue also comes from indigo. Other sources of blue dye available then came from the woad plant and litmus, made from lichens. The earliest blue paper might have come from ragged blue clothes, and dye a later refinement.The photograph just below is of two blue overalls hanging to dry in a nearby piazza, and it would be nice to think that their ancestors were recycled into drawing paper. Synthetic indigo was introduced by Adolf Bayer in 1880.

Blue Work Clothes | Rome

Carta azzurra is most associated with Venice. Vittore Carpaccio was an early user of blue paper. Albrecht Dürer took up using blue paper for his drawings during his 1505-07 stay in Venice and is credited with introducing the paper to artists over the alps. The Venetian printer and publisher Aldus Manutius was the first to print books on blue paper. Blue paper, really any colored paper, is often used with two media, such as black ink and white liquid heightening, or black chalk with white chalk heightening. The blue is the middle value which the dark and light play off. Since it’s such an appealing color for drawings, artists everywhere have used blue paper.

Vittore Carpaccio | Portrait of a Young Man | c. 1500 | Brush, brown ink and white heightening on blue laid paper | 260 x 185 mm | Christ Church | Oxford


November 22nd, 2009 § Comments Off on Solander § permalink

Solander boxes are used for the storage of drawings and other works on paper. They are hard shelled cases, made of basswood and covered with acid-free boards and treated pebbled cloth. Their rigidity is important and allows them to be stacked.  A pair of metal latches keep them tightly shut and they can have a handle or not. They are also lined with acid-free paper. The box opens so that the top of the box can lie flat, flush with the deeper section of the box. Nowadays, the more descriptive name “clamshell case” is often used, but this is a shame because it distances them from the 18th century Swedish naturalist Daniel Solander, who devised this storage box for dried plants and who worked at the British Museum.

Solander Boxes

Solander Boxes

Solander was a student of Carolus Linnaeus, one of Linneaeus’s apostles, who traveled from Uppsala to England in 1760 to help others understand Linnaeus’s system of classifying plants and animals, where, simply put, the genus and species names are paired. As he had not finished his degree before going to London, he probably meant to return to Sweden.

Daniel Solander

Portrait Medallion of Daniel Solander | Modelled by John Flaxman | Manufactured by Wedgwood & Bentley | Jasper ware | 1775/80 | 3.3 inches high | British Museum | London

Solander was very social and had an easy time inserting himself in London–James Boswell said of Solander “Throw him where you will, he swims.” He became Assistant Librarian at the British Museum in 1663, working on cataloging the herbarium of Hans Sloane, a founder of the museum. (The British Museum’s plant and animal collections were transferred between 1880 and 1883 to the Natural History Museum.) He interrupted his work at the museum in 1668 when he traveled with Captain James Cook and his good friend and patron Joseph Banks  across the Pacific. For Cook the main purpose of the trip was to study the Transit of Venus from Tahiti, something the French had done a few years earlier. For Banks and Solander, it was to collect plant specimens and to a lesser degree animal subjects. Their most significant work was done in New Holland or Australia. Botany Bay was named for the great variety of plants Banks and Solander found there, most of them completely new to them.

Two draftsmen were hired for the voyage, Alexander Buchan who worked mainly on recording views, people, and artifacts and Sydney Parkinson who worked on the scientific drawings of flora and fauna.  Buchan died early on. The crew of the ship Endeavor collected plants during the day and Parkinson would produce rough sketches with color notes. In the evenings Solander and Banks studied, described, named and recorded where their specimens were collected, while Parkinson worked further on the drawings, following Solander’s instructions, highlighting which parts of the plants should be recorded with the most care for classification purposes. Over 500 of Parkinson’s drawings can be seen on the Natural History Museum’s website here. Parkinson died on the way back to England in 1771.  Whether solander boxes were used on this trip or whether they were developed later at the British Museum isn’t known.  Solander assumed his old post at the British Museum in 1771 and was then promoted to Keeper of Natural and Artificial Productions.

Daniel C. Solander    1733 – 1782

1733 Born in Piteå, in northern Sweden on 19 February 1733.
1750 Enrolls in Sweden’s University of Uppsala, with the idea of studying law before meeting Carl von Linné or Carolus Linnaeus (1701 – 1778) whereupon he begins studying natural history and becomes one of Linnaeus’s top students.
1756 Edits Linnaeus’s Elementa Botanica.
1760 Linnaeus, asked in 1758 by English naturalists to send a student to aid their work,  recommends Solander and he arrives in London in June 1760.
1762 Linnaeus recommends Solander for professorship in St. Petersburg, but Solander prefers staying in Britain.
1763 Appointed Assistant Librarian at the British Museum to catalogue nautral history collections (BM founded by Act of Parliament in 1753 and first exhibits and reading rooms open in 1759).
1764 Meets Joseph Banks and become lifelong friends. Elected Fellow of Royal Society, the UK’s national academy of science.
1768 – 1771 Sails on the Endeavour to New Holland or Australia with Captain James Cook, Joseph Banks, Sydney Parkinson and crew. Sail from England to Rio de Janeiro, Tierra del Fuego, Tuamotu Islands, Society Islands, New Zealand, Australia, Batavia (Java), Cape Town and back to England.
1771 Becomes Banks’s Secretary and moves in with Banks.
1772 Travels with Joseph Banks to the Hebrides, Iceland, Orkneys, and Scottish Highlands.
1773 Reinstated at the British Museum and then promoted to Keeper in the Department of Natural and Artificial Productions.
1782 Suffers a stroke on 8 May 1782 and dies on 13 May 1782.

Drawings and Optical Tools

October 20th, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink

This post was prompted by a reader’s comment that  Jan Van Eyck would have loved using digital cameras, Photoshop, and other current visual aids.

Canaletto, the 18th century Venetian painter of views, used the camera obscura (two of his devices are in the Museo Correr, Venice) to produce rapidly traced drawings of the buildings and views he might later paint. The four drawings shown here are, because they are traced drawings, a little lifeless.

Canaletto Accademia Venice

Canaletto | Four Sheets of Views of the Campo San Giovanni e Paolo, Venice | Pen and Brown Ink on Cream Paper | Gallerie dell'Accademia | Venice

A camera obscura is, as it sounds, a dark chamber or box. It has a small aperture, through which the image of the externally lit subject is projected upside down onto the opposite wall of the room or box. Later refinements included lenses and mirrors to sharpen and right the upside down images. There has been much written about whether the artists Caravaggio and Jan Vermeer used the camera obscura in creating their pictures. (As a curious aside, no drawings have been convincingly attributed to either Caravaggio and Vermeer.) One reason for thinking these artists used a camera obscura is because of the remarkable clarity and detail in their work. The painter David Hockney goes so far as to claim that artists as early as Jan Van Eyck used optical aids. There is absolutely no documentation showing that Van Eyck, Caravaggio, or Vermeer used such devices.

Many artists try to assist other artists (and possibly further their own reputation) by writing about the practice of art. Dürer in his Underweysung der Messung or Instruction in Measurement uses the following woodcut as an aid for teaching perspective.

Albrecht Durer | Draftsman Drawing a Recumbent Woman | Woodcut | 1525| Graphische Sammlung Albertina

Albrecht Durer | Draftsman Drawing a Reclining Woman | Woodcut | 1525| Graphische Sammlung Albertina | Vienna

The woodcut shows an artist viewing his subject through a window, compartmentalized into squares, so that each square could be methodically understood and then recorded on the gridded drawing paper.

One much used device was the Claude Glass. Named after the 17th century artist Claude Lorrain, it came into use in the 18th century. The Claude Glass is a darkened, slightly convex mirror. It functions as a view finder and, because of its tinted nature, it creates an artfully cohesive tone, suggesting the dreamy effect of a Claude landscape under yellowed varnish.

Claude Glass | 5-1:2 inches | Freeman's Auction House | Philadelphia | 2 March 2007 | lot 603

Claude Glass | 5-1/2 inches | Freeman's | Philadelphia | 2 March 2007, lot 603

It was used by artists, both professional and amateur and also by people who just wanted to see what fashion told them was a more perfect landscape. There is a drawing in the British Museum by the artist Thomas Gainsborough which shows an artist, possibly a self-portrait,  holding a Claude Glass in one hand and drawing implement in the other, to record what he was seeing on the paper on his lap.

Thomas Gainsborough | Artist wiith a Claude Glass (Self-Portrait?) | Pencil on Cream Laid Paper | 184 x 138 mm. | c. 1750 | British Museum | London

Thomas Gainsborough | Artist wiith a Claude Glass (Self-Portrait?) | Pencil on Cream Laid Paper | 184 x 138 mm. | c. 1750 | British Museum | London

Gainsborough had another interesting way of working, that of collecting plants and using them in his studio to create miniature landscapes. His friend the painter Joshua Reynolds tells us about Gainsborough:

“He even framed a kind of model of landscapes on his table; composed of broken stones, dried herbs, and pieces of looking glass, which he magnified and improved into rocks, trees and water. How far this latter practice may be useful in giving hints, the professors of landscape can best determine. Like every other technical practice, it seems to me wholly to depend on the general talent of him who used it. Such methods may be nothing better than comtemptible and mischievous trifling; or they may be aids.”

The works of Sir Joshua Reynolds, knight … : containing his Discourses, Idlers, A journey to Flanders and Holland, and his commentary on Du Fresnoy’s art of painting / printed from his revised copies, (with his last corrections and additions) In three volumes. To which is prefixed An account of the life and writings of the author by Edmond Malone, esq. …, 3d ed. corrected, London 1801, vol. II, p. 154.

Catalog Entries and Databases

September 19th, 2009 § Comments Off on Catalog Entries and Databases § permalink

If we were collecting drawings centuries ago, at least in Italy, we would probably have assembled our drawings as Padre Sebastiano Resta (1653 – 1714) had–using albums and writing pertinent information right by the drawings. A major drawback of keeping drawings in albums, or laid down on mounts,  is that a good many drawings are double-sided and by pasting drawings down, you lose one side. (Discovering that you have another drawing on the verso of a laid down drawing is similar to the thrill of discovering that there are two layers to the chocolate box.)

Codice Resta

Padre Sebastiano Resta | Libro d'Arabeschi | Album of Drawings | Biblioteca Comunale | Palermo

Most people now keep their drawings in mats and information is stored apart. FileMaker Pro and Access are two databases that can be used for storing this type of information. Since I’m always worried about losing information, whether by corrupted programs or computer failure, it would be wonderful if one could use Google docs to keep all the information together, both fields and images. This would  be useful for accessing information from computers at libraries and anywhere. Once I finish this post, I’m going to write to suggest the idea to Google.

The following is a list of possible fields for catalog entries or fact sheets.

  • Creation Place
  • School
  • Century
  • Artist’s Name
  • Birth Place
  • Birth Date
  • Death Date
  • Death Place
  • Image Recto
  • Title Recto
  • Date of Work
  • Media Recto
  • Insciption Recto
  • Image Verso
  • Title Verso
  • Date of Work
  • Media Verso
  • Inscription Verso
  • Carrier/Drawing Support
  • Size in Millimeters/Inches
  • Watermark Image
  • Watermark Reference
  • Inventory Number
  • Acquired from
  • Date
  • Price
  • Provenance
  • Lugt Image
  • Lugt Number
  • Exhibitions
  • Bibliography – Real
  • Bibliography – Related
  • Notes/Correspondence

Words in Six Languages Relating to Drawings

September 7th, 2009 § Comments Off on Words in Six Languages Relating to Drawings § permalink

The table below the Pieter van Laer drawing is a start at compiling a list of words that relate to drawings. The list was first written in English and then translated into the five other languages. Some blanks will be filled in soon. Other terms,  important words such as those that distinguish various types of inks (iron gall, bistre, carbon, sepia) and kinds of chalks will require more attention and will be added later. I’ll be grateful for any corrections.For an introduction to drawing techniques and materials, please see Michael Miller’s site here.Pieter van Laer | Dutch Artists in a Roman Tavern | Pen, brown ink and wash, over

English Dutch French German Italian Spanish
auction auctie vente Auktion asta subasta
bodycolor dekverf gouache Deckfarben tempera temple
brush penseel pinceau Pinsel pennello pincel
cartoon karton carton cartone
chalk krijt pierre, craie, crayon Kreide pietra, matita, gessetto creta, tiza, gis
charcoal houtskool fusain Kohle carboncinio carboncillo
collection collectie, verzameling collection Sammlung collezione, raccolta colección
counterproof contre-épreuve controprova contraprueba
dark donker foncé Dunkel scuro oscuro
draftsman, draughtsman tekenaar dessinateur Zeichner disegnatore dibujante, delineante
English Dutch French German Italian Spanish
drawing tekening dessin Zeichnung disegno dibujo
exhibition tentoonstelling exposition Ausstellung mostra exposición
glassine pergamijn papier cristal Dünnpergamin carta pergamena papel cristal
hatching hachures Schaffierung tratteggio
ink inkt encre Tusche, tinte inchiostro tinta
laid paper vastgestelde papier papier vergé Gestreift carta vergata
leaf blad feuille Blatt foglio hoja
light licht clair Licht chiaro claro
mat klep-passepartout passe-partout, encadrement aufziehkarton, untersatzkarton montatura montura
metalpoint pointe de métal Metalstift punta di metallo lápiz metálico
English Dutch French German Italian Spanish
mount opetkarton passe-partout, encadrement Passepartout passe-partout paspartu
oil colors olieverf huile Ölfarbe olio óleo
painting schildering, doek, schilderij peinture Gemälde dipinto, pittura pintura, cuadro
paper papier papier Papier carta papel
parchment perkament parchemin Pergament pergamena pergamino
pastel pastel, tekenkrijt, kleurkrijt pastel Pastell pastello pastel
pen penseel plume Feder penna pluma, ploma
pencil potlood, graflet mine de
Bleistift matita, lapis, grafite lápiz
pigment kleurstof, verfstof pigment Pigment pigmento pigmento
prepared paper, paper with a ground geprepareerd papier papier préparé Grundiertem Papier carta preparata, carta tinta
English Dutch French German Italian Spanish
provenance herkomst, provenance provenance, origine herkunft, unsprung, provenienz provenienza procedencia
silverpoint zilverstift pointe d’argent Silberstift punta d’argento
sketchbook schetsboek carnet Skizzenbuch taccuino álbum de esbozos, libro de dibujos
solander box overslagdoos, solander boîte d’archives Sammelschachtel, Kapsel scatola per archivio
squared for transfer mis aux carreau Quadrierung quadrettato cuadriculado
tracing paper papier calque papel de calcar, papel de calco
wash gewassen lavis Lavis lavis aguada
watercolor waterwerf, aquarel aquarelle Aquarell acquerello acuarela
watermark watermerk filigrane Wasserzeichen filigrana filgrana
white heightening wit gehoogd rehauts de blanc Weiss gehöht,
Deckweiß gehöht
lumeggiature in biacca toques de blanco

Two 15th Century Drawings

August 29th, 2009 § 4 comments § permalink

Two amazing 15th century drawings are Jan Van Eyck’s St. Barbara (Royal Museum, Antwerp) and Giovanni Bellini’s Lamentation (Uffizi, Florence). Both are on gesso covered panels and painted with fine, fine brushes. The Bellini is a large work and measures 74 x 118 cm., and the Van Eyck small at 31 x 18 cm.  They are often referred to as grisaille paintings. To me they are much more drawings than paintings, and if I were a drawings curator at the Uffizi or in Antwerp, I’d surely agitate to have them in my department. The limiting of drawings to paper or animal skin supports seems too arbitrary.

Jan Van Eyck | St. Barbara | 1437 | Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten | Antwerp

Jan Van Eyck | St. Barbara | 1437 | Koninklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten | Antwerp

Giovanni Bellini | Lamentation | c. 1490 | Galleria degli Uffizi | Florence

Giovanni Bellini | Lamentation | Tempera on Panel | 74 x 118 cm. | c. 1490 | Galleria degli Uffizi | Florence

Bellini | Lamentation | Detail

Bellini | Lamentation | Detail

Scholars are undecided as to whether these are finished or unfinished works. To modern eyes, it would seem insane to do such detailed works, only to be covered with paint. (The colored paint in the sky of the Van Eyck work was added later, not by Van Eyck.) Fifteenth century painters were meticulous in their preparation, but to this extent?

The possibilities:

– Unfinished, meant to be completed with paint

– Meant to be exactly as they are

– Meant to be used as teaching/workshop models

Or, maybe we’re dealing with instances of “quit while you’re ahead.”