Italian SchoolsThe Art Of Painting - Italian Schools - 1, a brief series of articles on the art of painting and drawing
You will no doubt be struck by the fulness of the panel. This amplitude, like the head on a fine Greek coin that practically fills its circle, is due to the influence of Michael Angelo, the painter's master, two of whose unfinished works are among the treasures of the National Gallery.
When chaperoning my literary friend around these Galleries, I found myself, when asked why we stopped before certain works, using repeatedly the word " luminosity." This luminosity is without doubt the supreme test of the painter's craft. Age will give a " patina," and enhance that glow of light in work that has been carefully wrought ; on the other hand, it obliterates much of the original brightness when the method followed was ill-considered or careless. There is no caprice in Nature's apparent favouritism.
The figure of Venus, being in full light, has no unnecessary accents to impair its largeness ; for over-modelling is inimical to brilliancy and freshness, and that brilliancy is again enhanced by the subduing of all other incidents that might compete if lighted equally, such as the torso of the cherubic Folly, which is no less tenderly and broadly modelled than the principal figure.
One can only attribute the freshness of the flesh tones to a pure white under-painting in which there was little oil (for oil tends to darken), and to the very direct completion of each large passage. The unity of the whole aspect would not be preserved as it is had there been many succeeding re-paintings. The actual colour is glazed in some instances, and used with but slight opacity in others. The transparent drapery on the figure of Venus is thinly wrought over dry paint, as are the leaves that cut across the outline of the Cupid.
Its inexorable drawing is undoubtedly due to the use of a completed cartoon, as there are no signs of change in the original intention, which after so many centuries we should not fail to detect.
The making of a cartoon for every picture was a common practice with the masters of decorative design. Fresco-painting, on which most of them were engaged, exacted such a provision. It was well-nigh impossible to make changes in the original composition when working on the intonaca or wet plaster surface ; and it is to the survival of this habit that the brightness of the earlier works owes so much.
VENUS, CUPID, FOLLY, AND TIME
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