Pictured Left: "Mona Lisa's Hands" print provided by Art.com
In real life, value is upset by texture because surfaces react to illumination. Since in nature things are obscured by shadows, artists developed techniques to show this notion. Sfumato is the technique of using graduated values to blur images and to make them ambiguous, as well as to suggest movement. Leonardo Da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" demonstrates sfumato in the eyes and mouth. Specifically, the eye depicts this notion by suggesting movement.
Da Vinci used oil paints and sfumato technique because he wanted to make paintings that looked real. He made his under painting by adding white (tint) and black (tone) to pure colors. Then, diluting his oil paints, he layered transparent glazes, mixtures of pure color and black - to enhance the sense of depth. Scumbling purer light colors over the darker glazes, Da Vinci created a warm luminosity in his paintings.
A Simple Approach To Sfumato
To experiment with Da Vinci's technique: Create an under painting with Titanium-Zinc White added for brighter (tint + white) colors and Ivory Black for shade (pure color + black). Or use the Radiants and Portland
Greys to create impasto then glaze with transparent pure colors and painting mediums.
Other Techniques Used by Da Vinci
The "last Supper" is a mural that was painted on a wall in a monastery in Milan depicting Jesus and his disciples at the table during the Last Supper. It was done in tempera and unlike many of the paintings from that era, is has chipped and faded away. During World War II the monastery was hit by a bomb and the painting was left exposed to rain and wind for over three years. There is a copy of this famous mural in the Louvre, in Paris, France.
For a copy of our "recipe" to make your own Egg Tempura check out our Resource
Center under "Recipes & Free Project Ideas".
The genius of the Tuscan scholar, Leonardo da Vinci can be seen in the admirable "Annunciation", in the unfinished cartoon of the "Adoration of the Magi", and in the "Baptism of Christ", in which his sfumato technique is mixed with his master Verrocchio's plastic style. But there's a lot more to his genius than painting...
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