Caravaggio – Oil painting in Italy XVII century (VIDEO)
Giuditta e Oloferne – 1597 circa – Oil on canvas, 145×195 cm – Gallerie nazionali d’arte antica, Palazzo Barberini, Roma
There is a close relationship between the ground preparation and the technique used for applying colour. As the use of support made up of canvas on a stretcher frame began to grow, this relationship was even more evident. The methods used for the priming were improved, and they now required a ground preparation that was lightweight and flexible. The rough sketch, which could be seen underneath the colour, functioned as a guide for the painter and a colour base that became the centre of the execution of the work. During the course of the 1500’s the desire to make use of the transparencies obtained with oil colours led to the use of coloured primings. In the 1600’s very dark ground preparations were the norm. In fact, it was discovered that certain colours were more powerful and splendid when they were applied over a reddish base. However, over time there was a tendency for the halftones to be absorbed thereby reinforcing the shadows and creating greater contrast in the painting. Notwithstanding some very personal techniques, Caravaggio technique has been chosen here to exemplify these methods.
The literary sources affirm that Caravaggio did not draw but painted directly with colour from the model. Frequent changes and “pentimentos” while working on his paintings, and evidenced by x-ray radiography, seem to confirm this fact. The main parts of the composition were summarily fixed with free-hand scratches made directly into the ground preparation. In this photograph we can see these scratches at the height of chest of the main female figure. One of the scratched reference lines delineates the right shoulder and the other, the curve of the forehead. This working method is practically exclusive to this artist, and it was probably developed from in the incising method used to transfer drawings from a cartoon. However, the choice of dark preparations in red or in brown is a fairly general practice. Some painters of this period use differently coloured preparations according to different areas of the painting, while other (such as Caravaggio) used the grounds as a tonality underlying the colours.
Based exclusively on the incised lines on the reddish preparation, Caravaggio began to paint using quick, loose brushstrokes that were at the same time powerful and strong. The speed of his execution perhaps depended on habit as well as his desire to paint directly from the model. Even at the level of the abbozzo, the painting appeared defined and well studied in every detail.
The painting was made with full, direct colours and not in layers. The technique of thick impasto painting developed during this period and in time has remained typical for many areas of the Mediterranean.
Caravaggio technique did not limit the figures in well-defined contours, but executed the entire figure beginning with the background and layered over them as the figures in the foreground emerged. Figures, clothing and objects added successively are often laid one over the other, as can often be seen on the foreheads that are then covered over by hair, or the arms that continue under the sleeves of the clothing.
The final touches, rapidly applied, did not go much beyond the abbozzo and in fact were closely tied to it; so much so that highlights (lumeggiatura) made with egg tempera have been found applied over layers of oil that were still wet. The energy and the decisiveness of the brushstrokes were combined with an extraordinary attention for the slightest detail and laid in with the finest of brushes. Finally, using thin glazes in brown or black, the painter went back to work on the areas of reddish preparation left open, obtaining in this manner the dark background colour that is sometimes seen overlapping the contours of the figures.
Manfredi Faldi – Claudio Paolini
Painting by Manfredi Faldi
Estratto da: Artis (Art and Restoration Techniques Interactive Studio), Direzione scientifica: Manfredi Faldi, Claudio Paolini. Cd Rom realizzato da un gruppo di istituti di restauro europei, coordinati dall’Istituto per l’Arte e il Restauro Palazzo Spinelli, con il determinante contributo della Commissione Europea nell’ambito del programma d’azione INFO2000.
Quest’opera è distribuita con Licenza Creative Commons Attribuzione – Non commerciale – Condividi allo stesso modo 4.0 Internazionale.
Condividi questo articolo
ARTEnet nasce nell’aprile del 2000 per condividere esperienze e conoscenze nel campo delle Tecniche artistiche, del Restauro e della Diagnostica applicata al settore dei dipinti; ha ideato e promuove una metodologia didattica innovativa che integra studi e ricerche nelle tre differenti discipline.