Renaissance Image Transfer

Apologies for not posting last week! I had to study for midterms, so I didn't have time to write. However, that means that this week you get TWO posts so I can catch you up.

Let's start with a little history lesson. During the Renaissance, artists were working though a Humanistic lens. Humanism was a movement defined by interest in looking back to Greek and Roman thought, the pursuit for secular knowledge, and emphasis on the individual.

Even though Humanists were coming around to secular knowledge, they were still very religious. So in order to reconcile their conflicting beliefs, they saw beautiful, mathematically perfect art as a way to convene with God. This is why Renaissance art emphasized idealistic, perfectly proportioned bodies, perspective, and pleasing or even religiously meaningful compositions.

Artists would usually make a cartoon (sketch) first to figure out the composition, proportions, and lighting of their piece. The image on the right is an example of a cartoon by Leonardo da Vinci.

Then they would transfer the image to their panel by poking holes in the paper along the important outlines and pouncing black charcoal through the holes to create a connect-the-dots of their cartoon. In the painting below by Mariotto Albertinelli, you can even still see the charcoal dots through the paint.

Instead of a cartoon, I just poked holes in a copy of my reference image. To pounce the charcoal, I ground up a piece of vine charcoal and tied it up in a sachet which I tapped/rubbed into the holes.

After the charcoal was laid down, I connected the dots with India ink. I've never really used India ink, so I didn't do this part really well (the lines really shouldn't be that thick). This helps to make the underlying drawing permanent. It takes a lot of layers to darken an area solely with the egg tempera, so it helps to establish value before you start the painting process.

You'll also notice that I added some dividing pieces. Ordinarily this would have been done before beginning to paint the image. The frame and decorative items were usually gessoed with the panel, but I forgot to do it then, so I added them in after - along with some decorative beads. The painting I'm copying is a counterfeit Renaissance (so not actually from the Renaissance) book cover, so the dividers and decorations I added in are based on that.


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