The Italian SchoolThe Art Of Painting - The Italian School - 1, a brief series of articles on the art of painting and drawing
There are few finer colourists than Bordone at his best. In this picture you will readily recognise the clear white ground with the rich madder glazes in the dress, and that oneness in the painting of the skin so characteristic of the best Italian work.
"The Vision of St. Helena" may serve to illustrate Paolo Veronese's method, although probably painted not by the master himself, but by his pupil Battista Zelotti. According to the reliable evidence of Boschini and the experience of the Venetian restorers, Paolo's abozzo was in the middle tints—that is, he selected, much in the way I have endeavoured to impress on you in painting from the life direct, the tone and colour that stands midway between the lights and the deeper halftones. On these he impastoed, not heavily but with a full brush, the highest lights, and then glazed the shadows, which with him were rarely deep ; for he was above all a decorator, and the darks in pure decoration are made rather of the flat masses of coloured draperies than of the play of light and shade.
The " St. Helena " is on a rough unprimed canvas ; probably a thin coat of size is all that lies between the paint and the threads. Paolo Veronese and his pupils favoured a coarse-textured ground, which enabled them to obtain a greater variety of surfaces. The sky and flesh here, unlike the draperies, are somewhat smooth. The skirt, an interesting study in broken colours, is treated with a full brush in the lights on it, the reddish glazes being caught in the deep interstices of the canvas.
One of Paolo Veronese's finest works is " The Family of Darius at the Feet of Alexander." On a close examination of this picture it will be seen that the damasked patterns are painted over the dry first colouring, and the lights on the folds worked over or into the colour glazes ; and a distinct outline is drawn around the figures, which imparts a decorative value to the whole.
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