Carlo Crivelli – The technique
The use of a mixed technique can be recognized for a large part in paintings between the Fourteenth and Sixteenth Centuries: in fact if we define the technique of the paintings whose only binder is egg yolk as egg tempera, we will realize how insufficient this phrase is to express the variety of technical experiences typical of this period. However, it is from the Fifteenth Century that artists will decisively opt to use tempera according to a new sensitivity that will push the technique to the limits of its possibilities, reaching results close to those of oil painting. Various experiments will be carried out in this direction both by using, for some pigments, oily binders (which is precisely what we define as
tempera grassa), and by making use of lacquers and glazes. In the latter case, even if the starting point comes from the traditional tempera coatings, a decidedly surprising result will be achieved with the superimposition of a fluid and brilliant glaze: it is this specific case that we have defined here as “mixed media”.
Among the many painters of the period, Carlo Crivelli appears decidedly representative of a generation still stubbornly tied to tradition and at the same time open to experimentation and contamination. The artist shows great craftsmanship: on a poplar or linden support he spreads a ground preparation according to the traditional recipe, whose adhesion is improved by a series of incisions forming a grid on the wood of the support. After having carried over the drawing with the use of a rudimentary cartoon and having traced, as usual, the engravings delimiting the gilding and the main architectural details, the painter goes over the drawing in charcoal with ink or with carbon black in egg tempera spread with a brush.
Crivelli’s features are extremely fluid and confident and it is rare to verify the presence of a “pentimento” in his paintings: the figures are drawn in all their parts with a bold marking, the modeling is obtained with an oblique hatching and with the superimposition of parallel lines.
This drawing is partly covered by a background; in part, as happens in the skin tones, the glazing allows to exploit the chiaroscuro already determined in the drawing phase.
For some pigments grease tempera is adopted (the analysis of the binders indicate the presence of walnut oil and sometimes pine resin, mixed technique) but for these first drafts the custom prevails and the traditional egg colors are used.
On these drafts the painter returns to define the details and to better finalize the volumes.
The underlying drawing has a notable importance in the overall qualification of the image, since it not only appears to define the outlines, but emerges under the definitive drafting of the color, in order to determine the shading by opalescence. The painter’s palette appears very limited but used with extreme skill. As for the complexions, the artist uses cinnabar and lacquer bonded with egg yolk and prepared in three different tones on which he then intervenes with a light lacquer glaze, therefore using a mixed technique. The application of the greens is a complex process, the stratigraphies show us that they are made of one, two or three layers of color, obtained by mixing blues and yellows.
The work is therefore enriched with the inclusion of a large number of details that reveal a figurative culture equally influenced by the late Gothic tradition and the Fifteenth-Century Flemish experiences.
The oil gilding completes the painting by defining the halo, the precious mantle of the Virgin and creating very particular relief effects, as for the sumptuous cushion of the Infant Jesus.
Manfredi Faldi – Claudio Paolini
Painting by Ulrika Alton
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, 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.
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