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Medium Well Done: 13 Paper and cardboard
The first paper-like sheets were made by the ancient Egyptians from papyrus, but it was the Chinese who discovered how to break plant fibres down to form sheets of what is recognisably paper. This knowledge came to Europe in the Middle Ages, by the eleventh century, and by the... Read more
Leonardo da Vinci: The Master’s Master 6
In 1512, Leonardo da Vinci turned sixty. In the autumn of the following year, he moved to live in the recently-constructed Villa Belvedere in the Vatican, in Rome. This had been designed by Pollaiuolo as a summer retreat from the heat of the main palace, and had just been... Read more
Leonardo da Vinci: The Master’s Master 5
From 1503 to 1506, Leonardo da Vinci lived and worked in Florence, where his major project and one of the most substantial of his artistic career was a mural of the Battle of Anghiari for the Palazzo Vecchio there. This was to be accompanied by a painting of the... Read more
Medium Well Done: 5 Watercolour and gouache
Watercolour is the most inappropriately-named of the popular painting media. Oil paint uses drying oils as its binder, egg tempera uses the yolk of eggs, and glue tempera various types of glue. Water is, of course, not the binder in watercolour, but the diluent, used to turn blocks of... Read more
Leonardo da Vinci: The Master’s Master 4
Prior to 1498, Leonardo da Vinci had enjoyed a settled period working in Ludovico Sforza’s court in Milan. With the invasion of the Duchy of Milan, he fled first to Venice, then to Cesena, before returning to his home city of Florence in 1503. During this unsettled period, he... Read more
Leonardo the Apprentice: Verrocchio’s pupils
There is little doubt that Leonardo da Vinci was apprenticed to the Florentine painter and sculptor Andrea Verrocchio (1435–1488), in whose workshop he learned to paint. Leonardo may have been Verrocchio’s most famous pupil, but there were others who went on to make great art too. Lorenzo di Credi... Read more
The Sight of Sibyls 1
You’re no doubt familiar with the best-known sibyl, the Oracle of Delphi – a woman with the ability to foretell the future, usually in some sort of mystic trance. This article looks at how this very pagan priestess and her kindred became popular figures in European Christian art. Late... Read more
Visible brushstrokes: 7. Painterly marks beyond Venice
In the last article in this series, I looked at some early Venetian paintings by Titian, Bassano, and Veronese, and some of El Greco’s, and became convinced that their painterly style, in which brushstrokes were clearly visible, was a Venetian trait, even posing the rhetorical question: Perhaps we should... Read more
The Story in Paintings: The judgement of Solomon
Many of the stories shown in paintings are complex if not rambling, and choosing the best scene is often tricky. The Old Testament story of the Judgement of Solomon is different: although it involves subtleties of human character and (in modern terms) Game Theory, there is only one moment... Read more
Tyger’s eye: the paintings of William Blake, 4 – Pity, painting Shakespeare’s similes
In 1795, William Blake decided to offer twelve large colour prints, made using a process similar to monoprinting, in which he laid a coloured design out on a flat surface, and brought paper into contact with the wet paint or ink in order to transfer some of that onto... Read more