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Title: Fresco Painting
Author: Ward, James
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                            FRESCO PAINTING

                            [Illustration]



                            FRESCO PAINTING

                         ITS ART AND TECHNIQUE

                  WITH SPECIAL REFERENCE TO THE BUONO
                       AND SPIRIT FRESCO METHODS

                                  BY

                              JAMES WARD

                               AUTHOR OF
       “PRINCIPLES OF ORNAMENT,” “COLOUR HARMONY AND CONTRAST,”
            “HISTORIC ORNAMENT,” “PROGRESSIVE DESIGN,” ETC.

  _With Four Plates in Colour and Thirty-one Half-tone Illustrations
                of Italian and other Fresco Paintings_

                                LONDON
                        CHAPMAN AND HALL, LTD.
                                 1909

                     RICHARD CLAY & SONS, LIMITED,
                     BREAD STREET HILL, E.C., AND
                           BUNGAY, SUFFOLK.



PREFACE


I have endeavoured in this treatise to place before students some
practical hints in the methods and processes of fresco painting, which
are the outcome of my experience in the practice of the “buon-fresco,”
and the “spirit-fresco” systems of wall decoration. As to the
stereochrome, or German “water-glass,” and its later variety, the Keims
process of fresco painting, I do not pretend to have a definite
knowledge, having no practical experience in painting in these methods,
but, on seeing the condition of some frescos in England which have been
executed in stereochromy, I should prefer to trust to the buon-fresco or
to the spirit-fresco mediums when it is a question of the permanency of
wall paintings.

It is common enough to-day to hear and to read of the condemnation of
fresco painting by critics, and even by some eminent artists, all of
whom seem to echo each other in pointing out the failures in the
examples executed on the walls of the Houses of Parliament and other
places; and all agree, because of these failures, that fresco painting
is impossible in this country, owing to the dampness of the climate.
Our damp climate seems to have a deal to answer for, but it is hardly
fair to blame it for the ignorance of some of our mid-Victorian artists
as to the nature and behaviour of the materials used in fresco painting,
and for their possibly limited knowledge of the chemistry of colours and
the after action of caustic lime on the colours they used.

I trust that the technical notes and observations on some of the Italian
frescos may be of interest and of some value to students of decorative
art.

                                                       J. WARD.



CONTENTS


CHAPTER I

                                                                    PAGE

THE RELATIONSHIP OF MURAL PAINTING TO ARCHITECTURE                     1


CHAPTER II

MURAL DECORATION--SYSTEMS AND METHODS                                  8


CHAPTER III

FRESCO-BUONO PROCESS--COLOURS--PREPARATION OF THE
WALL--METHOD OF EXECUTION                                             12


CHAPTER IV

PAINTING OF FLESH AND DRAPERIES--PERMANENCE OF
BUON-FRESCO                                                           25


CHAPTER V

SPIRIT FRESCO PAINTING                                                31


CHAPTER VI

TECHNICAL NOTES ON THE COMPOSITION, COLOUR, AND
PRESENT STATE OF SOME ITALIAN FRESCOS                                 39


CHAPTER VII

FRESCO PAINTINGS BY GOZZOLI AND PERUGINO                              51


CHAPTER VIII

THE WORK OF PINTURICCHIO AND GHIRLANDAJO                              56


CHAPTER IX

FRESCOS BY ANDREA DEL SARTO, LUINI, G. FERRARI,
RAFFAELLE AND MICHAEL ANGELO                                          63

INDEX                                                                 71



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS


PLATE                                                      _To face page_

1. THE ARTS OF PEACE (colour). _Lord Leighton_             _Frontispiece_

2. FRAGMENT OF ANCIENT FRESCO FROM TIRYNS                             10

3. PORTION OF FRESCO BORDER (colour). _After
   Sir E. J. Poynter, P.R.A._                                         20

4. TRIAL PIECE OF BUON FRESCO. _G. F. Watts, R.A._                    23

5. TRIAL PIECE OF BUON FRESCO. _G. F. Watts, R.A._                    25

6. GROUP OF THREE FIGURES (colour). _G. F. Watts, R.A._               27

7. ST. STEPHEN BEFORE HIS ACCUSERS, AND THE STONING
OF ST. STEPHEN. _Sir E. J. Poynter, P.R.A._                           30

8. DETAIL FROM THE ARTS OF WAR. _Lord Leighton_                       32

9. DETAIL FROM THE ARTS OF WAR. _Lord Leighton_                       34

10. DETAIL FROM THE ARTS OF PEACE. _Lord Leighton._                   37

11. THE BIRTH OF THE VIRGIN. _Giotto_                                 39

12. THE DEATH OF ST. FRANCIS. _Giotto_                                40

13. ST. LOUIS, KING OF FRANCE. _Giotto_                               42

14. THE MEETING OF SS. JOACHIM AND ANNA. _Giotto_                     43

15. CHRIST APPEARING TO MARY MAGDALENE. _Fra Angelico_                44

16. THE DEPOSITION IN THE SEPULCHRE. _Fra Angelico_                   46

17. DETAIL OF THE CRUCIFIXION. _Fra Angelico_                         47

18. THE TRIBUTE MONEY (colour). _Masaccio_                            49

19. ANGELS, FROM THE PARADISE. _B. Gozzoli_                           51

20. ANGELS, FROM THE PARADISE. _B. Gozzoli_                           53

21. ST. BENEDICT. _Perugino_                                          54

22. ST. JOHN. _Perugino_                                              55

23. DETAIL FROM THE CHRIST’S CHARGE TO PETER. _Perugino_              56

24. ST. CATHERINE DISPUTING BEFORE MAXIMIANUS. _Pinturicchio_         57

25. DETAIL OF THE ST. CATHERINE FRESCO. _Pinturicchio_                58

26. THE NATIVITY, SPELLO CATHEDRAL. _Pinturicchio_                    59

27. FLORENTINE LADY. _Ghirlandajo_                                    60

28. THE DEATH OF ST. FRANCIS. _Ghirlandajo_                           61

29. FLORENTINE LADY. _Ghirlandajo_                                    62

30. DETAIL FROM THE BIRTH OF THE VIRGIN. _Ghirlandajo_                63

31. FRESCO OF AN INFANT ANGEL. _B. Luini_                             64

32. THE VIRGIN AND CHILD. _B. Luini_                                  65

33. ST. LUCY SENTENCED TO DEATH. _Jacopo d’Avanzo_                    66

34. THE FIRE IN THE BORGO. _Raffaelle_                                68

35. FIGURE OF ADAM, SISTINE CHAPEL. _Michael Angelo_                  69



FRESCO PAINTING



CHAPTER I

THE RELATIONSHIP OF MURAL PAINTING TO ARCHITECTURE


When considering the subject of mural painting, and indeed the progress
and development of art generally, of the so-called “fine arts,” or of
the lesser arts that minister to the uses and wants of everyday life, we
cannot regard them as isolated creations of human activity apart from
their legitimate connection with the laws and principles of good
architecture. The progress, development, culmination, and decadence of
architecture synchronize with the similar stages of painting and
sculpture.

In a noble building the special functions of the three sister arts are
clearly defined; each supplies its own distinct qualities of expression
to make up the general artistic unity. The severe lines and proportional
rhythm of the architecture are enriched by sculpture, which in its turn
is chastened and modified by the contiguous severity of the former,
while painting adds the necessary colour finish to the bare spaces that
are enclosed by the mouldings and constructional lines of the
architecture, borrowing at the same time much of its dignity,
restfulness of form, simplicity of composition, and whatever else that
adds to its nobility and monumental fitness, from its close association
with the architecture. Thus, while the three arts are each limited to
their own special functions, they, at the same time, would appear to
assimilate from each other what is lacking in themselves, and so
contribute to the complete artistic harmony.

Painting, as the most ornate of the three, owing to its greater power of
expression and beauty of colour, must nevertheless be employed to
_decorate_, in the true sense of the word, the plain spaces in a
building, and in the largest and simplest manner, without any definite
attempts to represent the true facts of nature, or at least it should be
suggestive of such facts rather than descriptive of them.

The arrangement and composition of line, restfulness of the masses of
form, and the harmonic balance and purity of colour are among the
primary essentials of mural painting, and all these indispensable
requisites of this form of art are due to its contact with architecture.
While bearing this in mind, we must not forget that painting has its
special functions apart from those of architecture, which include a
controlling power over form and colour, and the faculty of illustrating
ideas, by means of the representation of a theme or an incident, a
subject or a story.

Now if the essentials of monumental painting, which we have named, and
the special functions of the art of the painter are united in any scheme
of mural decoration, the result would be an ideal work of decorative
art, examples of which may be found in the frescos of Giotto, and in
those of the majority of the Italian painters who followed him, down to
the sublime creations of Michael Angelo.

The older art of the Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Mediæval
schools was, in each case, influenced by, and in perfect harmony with
the architecture of the respective periods, and not less, but even more
so, were the painting and sculpture of Italy from the middle of the
thirteenth century till the end of the sixteenth century. The Byzantine
and Romanesque mosaics which decorate the churches of Ravenna, Venice
and Rome are dignified and sculpturesque in treatment, and from an
ornamental point of view, admirably _fill_ the architectural spaces of
both walls and vaulted ceilings. The artists of these ancient schools
rightly treated the wall spaces as flat surfaces, the wall being
strictly considered as such, and no attempt was made to treat the
subject of the painting in pictorial perspective, or to give the wall
the illusion of a window. The subject or incident, was also, for the
most part, mystic in character, and elevated in a spiritual sense, so
that the very soul of their art was expressed and symbolized; while
what we may call the bodily part, either from a want of their power of
expressing it or from a careless or studied neglect of this side of
their art, was limited and incomplete. And even when, in later times,
the science of art, as expressed in anatomy and perspective, was well
understood, this traditional treatment of the design was followed out by
the Italian artists, both in their mosaics and wall paintings, and was
never lost sight of by the painters subsequent to Giotto, until the
seventeenth century, when the general decadence of art had set in.

The three absolute essentials of ancient and mediæval painting, which
also characterized the best work of the Renaissance, appear to have been
a striving after the symbolic expression of the spirit of the subject, a
restfulness and dignity of form, and the beauty of colour. Whatever else
we look for, we ought to find these three essentials in a successful
work of monumental painting. In this kind of art, and indeed in all art,
small things should be sacrificed to great, and the commonplace or
matter-of-fact to the rendering or expression of the idea; in
parentheses, it might be pointed out, that in a general sense the
tendency of the art of the present day is towards a greater dexterity of
handling closer representations of the facts of nature, but less
sincerity of aim.

The more important paintings of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries
were those which decorated the walls of the Italian churches and
palaces, and the authors of these works were not only painters, but the
majority of them were also architects, sculptors, and craftsmen in gold
and silver work. Even those who confined their attention chiefly to
painting, thoroughly understood the principles of architecture, and
often designed and carried out architectural work, as witness Giotto,
Ghirlandajo, Michael Angelo, Leonardo Da Vinci, and many others.

If we now consider another aspect of art, where it is applied to objects
of general utility, we shall find that the design and decoration of
such, when rightly understood, are in each case subject to the laws that
govern good architecture. Take, for instance, the form or shape of a
common candlestick, a vase in pottery or in metal, a cabinet or a chair,
and let us see how far we can apply the principles of architecture to
their design and decoration. When designing such objects the first
consideration is their utility, and the next is the material of which
they are made. It is a common enough truism to say that the forms and
proportions which may be suitable for objects made in a certain
material, such as pottery or glass for example, should not be imitated
in another, such as metal or woodwork. When the questions of utility and
material have been settled, we can apply the laws and principles of
architecture to guide us in the design and decoration of the given
object. As to design, first, we should strive to obtain good proportion
of the parts and divisions to each other, and to the whole. It will be
found that correct proportion generally postulates the determination of
beautiful outlines and shapes. We should also aim for the expression of
contrasting elements of forms, such as curves with straight lines, sharp
curves with others of less curvature, horizontal lines to counteract
vertical tendencies, or mouldings and lines of varying widths arranged
to fit in such positions that will give, or suggest, constructive
strength; all of which are simply architectural principles, which, if
applied to the design of common objects, would give them a definite
claim to be considered as works of art.

Very little decoration is required on any article or object which has
been designed on correct architectural principles, beyond that already
expressed by the lines or mouldings and space divisions. If, however,
the nature or use of the object permits of the display, or adventitious
aid of such, in order to heighten its beauty, by making it still more
attractive and comely to the eye, then the laws and principles of
architecture will again help us by indicating where the decoration may
be placed, the right amount to use, the scale of such, and the order of
its disposition. We learn, for instance, from architecture that we must
not weaken the appearance of the constructive parts, such as the lines,
or the mouldings, by any fretful ornamentation, but on the panels and
plain spaces we may legitimately place our decoration, yet still
restrained so far as not to interfere with the right uses of the object,
and designed so as to harmonize, and in some instances contrast, with
the lines and contour. Examples of artistic objects, designed on
architectural principles, may be found in the Greek and Etruscan vases
and Pompeian bronzes, and, on the other hand, if some examples may be
mentioned where the laws of architecture do not find expression in their
form or decoration, and where art is almost non-existing, we might
safely point out the meretricious creations of the Chelsea and Dresden
chinaware, and the gold and silversmiths’ work of the mid-Victorian
period. This digression from our subject may be justified, on the
grounds of showing how important the study of architecture is to the
painter, the decorative artist, and to the designer in any branch of
art.



CHAPTER II

MURAL DECORATION--SYSTEMS AND METHODS


Various processes, systems, or methods have been employed in ancient and
modern times in the colour decoration of walls and ceilings. Under this
section of art is included all kinds of wall paintings, from the
representation of the symbolic hieroglyphics, found in the Egyptian
tombs, to the monumental paintings on the walls of public buildings,
churches, and palaces. The decoration of wall surfaces in colour is one
of the very oldest forms of art, and to a wall painting of any kind the
term “fresco” has usually, but somewhat loosely, been applied. Strictly
speaking, however, a veritable fresco painting is one that is executed
on the fresh or wet lime plaster of the wall, and is not re-touched
after the plaster has become dry. All other varieties of so-called
“fresco” paintings can only be designated as wall paintings, and
qualified according to their kind, such as “fresco-secco,” or “dry”
fresco, a kind of fresco where the wall is prepared in the same way as
in true fresco, and is then allowed to dry. Before the painting is
commenced, the wall is well saturated with lime water, and the colours
used are the same as those employed in fresco painting. It is not so
permanent as work executed on the fresh, wet plaster. Some of the old
writers frequently use the term “secco” when tempera painting is
evidently meant. Painting in _tempera_ on the dry wall is a process in
which the colours are tempered with a binding medium, such as glue size,
gum, parchment size, or a size made from eggs beaten up with water; the
Italian painters added the juice, or gum, of the fig tree, and sometimes
vinegar to the egg size. Other methods are _encaustic_, or painting with
wax as a medium, heat being afterwards applied to the wall to blend or
to protect the colours; _spirit fresco_, in which the colours are ground
in a wax medium and thinned with spirits of turpentine or oil of spike;
_water-glass_, a German method of wall painting; Keim’s process, an
improved variety of water-glass, and wall painting in oil colours.

The only advantage that these varieties of wall painting seem to possess
over the _buon_, or true fresco, process--and it may be considered as a
questionable one--is, that as regards the number of the colours, the
artist may use an almost unlimited or unrestricted palette, while in
buon fresco his colours are limited to the very few which remain
unchanged when subjected to the caustic action of the lime in the
plaster. Tempera painting on walls has been so much mistaken for the
fresco process that it is impossible to say when the latter was first
practised, but according to the statements of Vitruvius and Pliny, the
process was well understood by the Greeks and Romans. Perhaps one of the
most interesting revelations in the history of the art has been brought
about by the discovery of several fragments of wall and ceiling
decorations, found recently by the late Dr. Schliemann during the
excavations of the ancient cities and palaces of the pre-Hellenic Mycene
and Tiryns, of primitive Greece. One of these fragments of fresco
painting, which was found in a palace at Tiryns, consisted of a portion
of a wall or ceiling, a stucco slab, composed of lime and sand plaster,
on which is painted the representation of a spirited bull with the
figure of a man vaulting over its back. This interesting piece of work
must have been executed at least as early as 1500 B.C., as the city of
Tiryns was a mass of ruins shortly after this date. Many other fragments
of fresco paintings have also been found in the ruins of these ancient
palaces, some of which were decorated with linear and geometric
ornament, conventional flowers, and animal forms. Not only were the
walls and ceilings decorated with frescos, but the floors of some of the
apartments were treated in a similar manner. Still earlier examples of
fresco painting have been found in prehistoric Thera, one of the Grecian
isles, and others in the Minoan palace at Cnossus, in Crete, both of
which may have been painted as early as the nineteenth century B.C., and
certainly not later than the eighteenth.

The wall paintings of the Egyptian tombs were

[Illustration:

[_To face p. 10_

PLATE 2.--FRAGMENT OF ANCIENT FRESCO FROM TIRYNS]

executed in tempera on a gesso or stucco white ground, the same method
being followed in the decoration of the mummy cases and other objects.
In some instances these tempera paintings of the Egyptians were
varnished, which was not an advantage to their appearance, as the
varnish darkened, and in a great measure destroyed, the beauty of the
original colours.

Some of the wall paintings found at Pompeii are said to have been
executed in veritable fresco, since lime has been found in mixture with
most of the colours used. On the other hand, this has been disputed, and
some authorities classify them as tempera or secco paintings; but
perhaps the truth of the matter is, that a certain amount of the first
colouring was really executed on the wet lime plaster, and that, in some
instances, certain colours, used in the finishing of the work, were
applied afterwards in a tempera medium when the wall surface had become
quite dry. This method of procedure, according to the statements of
Vasari and Cennini, was not an uncommon practice with the Italian
_frescanti_ of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries.



CHAPTER III

FRESCO-BUONO PROCESS--COLOURS--PREPARATION OF THE WALL--METHOD OF
EXECUTION


Fresco-buono, or true fresco, is so called because the painting is
executed “a fresco,” that is, directly on the fresh, or wet plaster,
which forms the painting surface of the wall. This plaster, or mortar,
is a mixture of lime and sand, and the colours used in the painting are
such as will remain unchanged in hue when in contact or in mixture with
the lime. When all necessary details relating to the method of procedure
connected with the work are carefully carried out, true fresco paintings
may be said to have a higher degree of permanence and durability than
those executed by any other method or medium. The fine surface texture
and luminous quality of buon fresco pre-eminently distinguishes it as
the most beautiful colour finish for mural decoration.

The great permanence of fresco paintings is due to the formation of
carbonates, and sometimes silicates, of lime on the surface of the
plaster, which takes place during the drying of the latter. The
carbonic acid contained in the natural limestone is driven out of it by
the process of burning in the kiln, and after the burnt lime has been
slaked into lime “putty,” it has then become what is known as a hydrate
of lime. As long as the plaster is wet on the wall the lime in the
plaster exists in the state of a hydrate, and the applied colours of the
painting become saturated with this form of lime; but during the process
of drying, the lime on the surface, and to a slight depth below the
surface of the plaster, rapidly absorbs carbonic acid gas from the
atmosphere, and becomes a carbonate of lime, which is formed as a hard
and crystalline skin, or surface covering, under which the colours are
locked up, and so protected from any atmospheric influences. In addition
to this carbonate surface a silicate of lime is sometimes formed,
especially when in the painting some of the more earthy colours are used
which may have silica in their composition. These thin coverings of
carbonates and silicates of lime render fresco paintings impervious to
wet or damp on the surface, so that they may be occasionally washed
without injury; but bad air, such as sulphuretted hydrogen gases, or the
sulphur products given off by gas and coal combustion, will in time
convert the carbonate covering into a sulphate of lime, a substance
which disintegrates and destroys, not only the colours, but the plaster
surface also. This would suggest that in buildings which contain fresco
paintings coal fires and gas should not be used for heating and
lighting purposes, and also that the buildings should be properly
ventilated.


PREPARATION OF THE WALL IN BUON-FRESCO:

The wall on which a work in buon-fresco is to be painted should be of
good brick, or if a stone wall, it should be lined with brick on its
inner face, or, better still, it should be what is known as a hollow
brick wall--that is, one having an air-space between the outer and inner
linings. The joints between the bricks should be scored out, so as to
leave a key for the first coating of rough plaster; this should consist
of old lime and coarse, gritty, well-washed river sand, mixed with
ox-hair, or white asbestos cut into small bits, so as to bind the
mixture more effectually. For this first coating of plaster the usual
proportions are one part of lime and two parts of the gritty sand; it
should be about three-quarters of an inch in thickness. This coating
should have a roughened surface, made by scratching it with a
coarse-toothed kind of wooden comb, and should be left for the best part
of a year, so that it may thoroughly harden, before it receives the
second, and last, coat of plaster, that on which the painting is to be
executed, which is known as the _intonaco_. This plaster mixture must be
prepared with great care, and more than sufficient to cover the whole
wall space should be made before beginning the painting, so as to get
the whole surface evenly tempered, and of the same mixture; for if
different mixtures were made, and at different times, the lime and sand
might vary in proportions, which would possibly affect the colours of
the painting, and prevent them drying uniformly, as to tint or tone.

The proportions of lime and sand for the intonaco is, one part of lime
and three parts of fine and well-washed river sand. Pit sand must not be
used, on account of the clay and earthy matter which it contains; nor
sea sand, which of course contains a certain amount of salt that would
attract damp and cause the lime to perish. The lime must be well slaked,
and must be fairly old in the “putty” state, so that there may be no
fear of its blistering and blowing off here and there in round flakes on
the finished surface, which it will do if it is too new or not properly
slaked, even six or eight months after the plaster has been spread on
the wall.

The method of preparing lime for fresco work is, first to select the
best white variety which has been properly calcined. The lime is put
into a large wooden trough with sufficient clean water to slake and
dissolve it into a thin creamy consistency. The mixture is then strained
through a fine sieve into a brick-lined pit, roofed over to keep out the
wet and dust. A thick coating of clean river sand should be put over the
lime when it has cooled down and thickened into a paste, and has become
what is known as “lime putty.”

There are many tales and legends concerning the extreme old age of lime
putty before it has been used in the plaster of wall surfaces, or as a
painting material in fresco.

It has been stated that for some of the Italian frescos the lime used
was eighty years old. As a matter of fact it is quite ripe for use about
one year after it has been slaked. The lime used by Sir Edward J.
Poynter in his fresco in St. Stephen’s Church at Dulwich was about two
years old, and that used in the Houses of Parliament frescos was three
years. The quality of the lime, however, is of more consequence than its
age. The common grey lime used by the London builders should be avoided;
the best English variety is the pure white limestone, which is quarried
and burnt near Buxton in Derbyshire.

Before describing the method of laying on the last plaster ground, or
intonaco, a few words must be said about the preparation of the design
or subject to be painted. A finished coloured drawing or painting of the
design, to a smaller, or even to the same scale as the fresco painting,
must be prepared, and the artist should endeavour to make an exact copy
of this on the plaster surface, as there is no time to experiment in
colour schemes, or to make alterations from the original coloured design
in the short period that is at the disposal of the painter when he is at
work on the wet plaster. If the colour sketch of the work is prepared on
a small scale it will be also necessary that a cartoon in light and
shade drawing should be made to the full scale of the fresco painting,
before beginning to paint on the wall.

As the colours, and everything else that may be required, must be in
readiness, and close at hand before laying on the plaster ground and
before commencing the painting, it will be as well to indicate here the
proper colours which may be safely used on the lime plaster.

Although the palette in buon-fresco painting is very simple and
restricted as to the number of the colours which may be trusted to
withstand the caustic action of the lime, at the same time a fairly rich
and luminous colour scheme may be obtained, notwithstanding the limited
range of the palette. The following list may be safely relied upon:--

     WHITE. Lime white (_hydrate of lime_).

     YELLOW. Raw sienna (_a ferruginous earth_).

       “   . Cadmium yellow (_cadmium sulphide_).

     RED. Vermilion (_sulphide of mercury_).

       “   . Light red (_calcined Oxford ochre_).

       “   . Indian red (_ferric peroxide_).

     BLUE. Cobalt blue (_phosphate of cobalt and alumina_).

     GREEN. Oxide of chromium (_anhydrous sesquioxide of chromium_).

       “   . Emerald oxide of chromium (_hydrated oxide of chromium and
              borax_).

       “   . Cobalt green (_oxides of cobalt and zinc_).

     ORANGE. Burnt sienna (_raw sienna calcined_).

     BROWN. Raw umber (_oxides of iron, manganese, and clay_).

       “   . Burnt umber (_raw umber calcined_).

     BLACK. Ivory black (_charred bones_).

There are other pigments that might be used, but are really not
necessary, and some of them are doubtful as to their permanence. One
colour, not in our list, is the genuine ultramarine, a splendid blue,
and thoroughly permanent in buon-fresco, but its great price prohibits
its use, except in very small quantities, or on small portions of the
work. French, or factitious, ultramarine is also very permanent, and
withstands the action of the lime, but at the same time it is a most
harsh and disagreeable colour when used in lime or in any other kind of
fresco; when used alone it destroys by its intensity of hue the proper
values of other colours in the scheme; on the other hand, if any attempt
is made to tone it down by mixing it with another pigment, or by glazing
another colour over it, the result is cold and muddy in the extreme, so
it is best left out of the list, as it is almost unmanageable in fresco.
Vermilion is rendered durable in fresco by pouring lime-water over the
powdered colour, and then draining this water off, without disturbing
the colour. This washing is repeated four or five times, before the
vermilion is ready for use. Permanent white, which is a barium sulphate,
and tin white, or tin binoxide, may both be used in lime frescoes, but
they are unnecessary, and not so good for the purpose as lime white.
Lemon yellow, Naples yellow, aureolin, Venetian red, and terre-verte may
be used with lime, but it all depends on the manufacture of these
colours as to whether or not they may be used with safety. For example,
the Naples yellow, Venetian red, and terre-verte pigments of to-day are
quite different in their chemical constituents to the same named colours
of the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Yellow ochre, though it has
been used very much by the old Italian frescanti, is not to be depended
upon when used in lime fresco in this country, as it consists of a
mixture or combination of hydrate of iron and clay; it therefore
attracts the damp that is nearly always present in our atmosphere. Of
course, it can be safely used in very dry climates, but it may be
mentioned that it has been one of the pigments which has largely
perished in some of the frescos of the Houses of Parliament. Another
objection to its use in fresco is, that the caustic nature of the lime
is apt to change yellow ochre to a light red, an after effect which may
not be altogether desirable. Raw sienna, however, more than takes the
place of yellow ochre, and is one of the most useful colours in fresco
painting. We should say that the three most permanent and beautiful
colours for use on the lime plaster are raw sienna, burnt umber, and
Indian red, and whether used in transparent washes or in solid tints, as
when mixed with lime-white, or in the full strength of their hues, they
always dry out luminous and brilliant. All the colours should be ground
very finely in water, and kept in covered jars or wide-mouthed glass
bottles. The lime-white should be strained through muslin and kept
covered. A bone or ivory palette knife must be used, and the palette
should be made of tinned metal, having a series of small circular wells
to hold the various colours. Brushes are of the ordinary kind, hog-hair,
and a few long sable riggers. Hog-hair brushes are best for use when
they are of a flat shape, but of a roundish finish at the end, like an
old or half-worn brush, so that when in use they will not disturb the
surface of the wet plaster, which a new or square-ended brush is apt to
do.

When everything is in readiness to commence work, a portion of the rough
wall surface should be thoroughly saturated with water, and the plaster
ground, or intonaco, should be laid on with a wooden trowel, beginning
at the top and at an angle of the wall, and large enough in area to
constitute a day’s work, or, rather, as much as can be done in about
five hours; for after that time it is not safe to work on the new
plaster, as it then becomes too dry: if allowed to get in this condition
the colours will not properly incorporate with the body of the plaster,
for if any painting is done when the plaster is in a half-dry state the
colours will not adhere permanently to the wall, but will scale off the
surface, or may be brushed off loosely when dry. When any portion of the
plaster ground becomes too dry to work upon.

[Illustration]

it must be cut right away and a new coating of plaster applied; it is of
no avail to syringe it with water in order to keep it damp for painting
on, as the water only weakens the nature of the lime in the plaster. The
chemical action between the atmosphere and the lime, necessary for the
firm locking up of the colours, will have taken place after four or five
hours’ time, according to condition of the atmosphere; and this action
will not repeat itself or be brought about by any application of water
after the period named.

When the day’s work is finished, any part of the surface not painted on
must be cut away, and the plaster all around the edge must be under-cut,
the cut sloping well inwards, so as to form a key for the new piece of
plaster for the next day’s work. This coating of plaster should be
rather more than half-an-inch in thickness, and should be finished to a
level, but not too smooth, a surface, with the wooden trowel, or
“float.” An iron trowel must not be used. After the plaster is laid on
it should remain about ten minutes or so before painting, so as to allow
it to set. It should then be coated with a tint, that would be a deep
vellum colour when dry, made of a mixture of lime-white and a little raw
sienna, about the thickness of cream; this will give a slightly smoother
surface to the plaster and will act as a luminous ground for the
subsequent colouring, besides acting a very important part as an
under-coating on which the superimposed colours will “bear out” more
effectively. The water used should be distilled or boiled, or rain water
collected in clean vessels, as hard water generally contains a quantity
of chalk, and for this reason it is not so powerful a solvent of the
lime as soft or distilled water.

The portion of the design selected for the day’s painting is traced from
the cartoon, and is transferred to the soft plaster through the holes,
which are pricked through the tracing paper, by means of pouncing with
powdered charcoal contained in a muslin bag, or it may have the outline
traced through with a sharp-pointed wooden stile; this will leave a
slightly depressed line on the soft plaster, and is a cleaner method
than the charcoal pounce, and on the whole the more preferable one.

We have now arrived at the stage of the work when the painting may be
proceeded with. It may be here mentioned that, in order to try the hues
of the colours and various tints, an ordinary brick having a thick
coating of plaster of Paris, that has been allowed to become thoroughly
dry, should be at hand. If a touch from the brush, dipped in any tint,
be put on this plastered brick it will dry immediately, and show at once
the actual shade of colour that such a tint will be when, after some
days, it has dried out on the plaster surface. It generally takes three
or four days, according to the season of the year, or heat of the room,
before the wall surface and the applied colours finally dry out, and
all

[Illustration:

[_To face p. 23._

PLATE 4.--TRIAL PIECE OF FRESCO PAINTING

_G. F. Watts, R.A., Victoria and Albert Museum_]

colours, more particularly the lighter tints and half-tones, dry
eventually ever so much lighter than they appear when first laid on. It
is only the very darkest tones, or pigments used in their full strength,
those that have no lime mixed with them, that dry anything near the full
strength of their wet state, and then there are exceptions to this; so
it follows that in buon-fresco painting the artist must paint in a much
darker key than the work is intended to appear when it has dried out.

As regards the method of execution in painting it may be urged that the
artist will work according to his own feeling or temperament: for
example, some may decide to paint in thin transparent washes or
glazings, as in water-colour painting; others may prefer to use the
colours in a thick impasto method, as in oil painting. Either method may
be adopted with success, but we should say that a judicious mixture of
both methods, in the same work, will obtain the clearest and most
luminous results, for, as a matter of technique, fresco lends itself
admirably to either methods of painting. The general rule is to model
the shades, half-tones and lights, broadly at first and in the order
named, with brushes rather large than small, and then to finish off by
strengthening the shadows with lesser touches, or by a series of
delicately hatched lines, and brightening the lights in the same way,
using for these purposes sable rigger brushes. The reason for this is
that every touch tells, especially when using a sable brush; you cannot
press or lean on your brush on the soft plaster without disturbing the
underneath colours, and possibly destroying the surface of the plaster
as well. It will be seen from this that the fresco painter must
cultivate a light hand for his work; he cannot indulge, for instance, in
that dexterity of handling that may be accomplished in oil or in, say,
spirit-fresco painting, simply because of the danger of working up the
soft and wet plaster ground: he must know what he has to do, and must do
it frankly and at once; for, although to a certain extent the artist may
be able to paint over parts and so correct occasional mistakes, it is
not advisable to do so, as the corrections will more or less show when
the work has dried out, by looking muddy, and consequently less luminous
than they ought to be. The only alternative, when a correction is
necessary, is to cut the piece out, and lay on a fresh plaster ground.
All this shows how important it is to have a full-sized cartoon in light
and shade, and also a colour scheme previously prepared, from which the
fresco painting may be almost copied directly on to the wet plaster.

[Illustration:

[_To face p. 25._

PLATE 5.--TRIAL PIECE OF FRESCO PAINTING

_G. F. Watts, R.A., Victoria and Albert Museum_]



CHAPTER IV

PAINTING OF FLESH AND DRAPERIES--PERMANENCE OF BUON-FRESCO


In beginning the painting of flesh and draperies on the wet plaster, or
indeed in any other kind of wall painting, it is important to commence
with a kind of modified outline. This, of course, applies also to any
other prominent objects in the design or composition. It is therefore
advisable that, before laying in the first masses of colours, the main
features of the drawing should be outlined firmly with a sable brush,
even if you modify or half-obliterate the outline when afterwards
painting within it. Having outlined the portion selected for painting on
the prepared light or cream-coloured ground, supposing it to be a head
or other part of the human figure, a very good way to begin is to lay in
the shadows first, using a soft or half-worn hog-hair brush, the shadow
colour to be of a warm greenish tint, of a mixture of emerald oxide of
chromium, raw sienna, and light red, used thinly to get transparency.
Immediately after the shading, or modelling of the shadows, is
accomplished a general flesh-coloured tint is made, of a medium tone,
and is swiftly brushed over the parts where the lights and half-tones
would be, taking care that it is worked very thinly or sparingly into
the shadows. This flesh-coloured tint ought to have a very little
quantity of lime-white to render it semi-opaque. As soon as this is done
the carnations of the cheeks and lips and colours of the eyes should be
painted in. Then on the top of the general flesh tint the colours of the
forehead, cheeks, and neck should be worked in, according to the colour
of the sketch, gradually brightening the lighter parts and strengthening
the shadows as required. For this second painting of the flesh the shade
colour, modified of course according to the complexion and position it
is to occupy, may be made of a mixture of raw sienna, light red, burnt
sienna, and a very little emerald oxide. The same colours, with
vermilion and lime-white added, may be used for lights and half-tones,
and the transition tones between lights and half-tones may be obtained
by lightly dragging the lighter tints over the half-tones, which
operation usually produces the natural greyness required in these parts.
For the darker markings of the nostrils, lips, eyes, and eyebrows, or
any dark accentuations of the flesh tints, burnt umber used alone or
mixed with a little vermilion, or burnt sienna, may be employed. Black
may also be used for the same purpose if mixed with burnt sienna or
vermilion. At this stage the flesh-coloured

[Illustration]

parts may be left to dry in a little and get firmer before finally
finishing these parts, when attention may now be directed to the
painting of the hair, head-dress, or any small accessory. These portions
of the work may be laid in at once with an almost flat tint of strong
local colour, and the lights and shades modelled into it. On coming back
to the flesh portions it may be found necessary to do a considerable
amount of retouching; this can still be done near the end of the day’s
work, as long as the touches are small and delicate, and provided there
is no serious repainting attempted. As regards the general question of
retouching a word of warning is necessary; and that is, it often happens
that some touches which are intended to dry out lighter than the colour
on which they are superimposed will appear actually darker than the
underneath colour when they are freshly laid on; this generally happens
when the colour which is being used contains some lime-white in its
mixture, and it is owing to this capricious behaviour of opaque or
semi-opaque tints that some artists have preferred to work almost
entirely in transparent washes on the lime-white ground. It stands to
reason, however, that the work will be more luminous and more permanent
if the colours are all mixed in some degree with lime, and also there
will be more complete incorporation or cohesion with the colours and the
plaster ground.

It may be mentioned that if a general tone of colour is to be given to
any large surface, or if the same colour is to appear in different parts
of the fresco, as in draperies, skies, buildings, etc., a few shades of
the colours required should be mixed and preserved in closed jars for
future use, as it is almost impossible to match shades of a colour with
any degree of accuracy where lime is one of the ingredients of the
mixture.

The simplest way to paint drapery in fresco is to first outline the
work, and also indicate the principal folds in outline, then prepare
three shades of the general colour so that the darkest or shadow tint
will not be so dark as the final darkest shade, nor the lightest so
light as the finished lights are intended to be. Paint in the shades and
shadows first, the middle tints or half-tones next, and always finish
with painting the lights; each tint, of course, in the operation must be
lightly or delicately modelled into its neighbouring tint. This will
constitute the first painting, and when finished it should be allowed to
remain for ten minutes, or more, to sink properly into the plaster. For
the second painting a darker shade than the darkest used in the first is
prepared, and the darkest accents and depths of the folds are delicately
expressed; and with a still lighter tint than the lights of the first
painting, used in a fairly thick consistency, and with a full brush, the
higher lights of the drapery are then painted in. The piece of work
ought now to present the appearance of a monochrome study in light and
shade, but it may be necessary to indicate reflected lights in some
portions of the shadows, and the lights may want a blush of some other
colour to make the study a more truthful representation of drapery
texture, or of the accidental lights, and also reflections from
surrounding objects. These extra tints should be put in their proper
places after the second painting is done; and care should be taken to
mix them of a purer or brighter colour than they appear in the coloured
sketch, so that, when they are glazed lightly over the work, the
underpainting, which is of a different colour, will slightly show
through and modify these bright glazings to the required tones. It may
be necessary to glaze over more than once in order to get the desired
effects, but that will not matter, provided that the glazing is done
with a light hand, so that the underpainting is not disturbed.

When painting foliage, flowers, fruit, ornament, or architecture, the
same method of working will also apply, but the treatment of such
objects would be simpler, and will be found less difficult, than the
painting of drapery.

We have gone somewhat into detail in giving this description as to the
methods of painting in buon-fresco, but we have done so because we
believe it to be the best and highest form of wall decoration, and we
are convinced that if a dry wall is obtained, properly prepared, and
none but the best and safest colours used, it is a perfectly possible
medium for wall decoration, even in this climate of ours.

As a proof of this we wish to mention that the fresco painted in this
method, and with colours similar to what have been described as suitable
for buon-fresco, by Sir Edward J. Poynter, P.R.A., in the chancel of St.
Stephen’s Church at Dulwich, about thirty-five years ago, is at the
present moment in a perfectly sound condition, and is almost as fresh
looking and bright as when first painted. It is exposed to the effects
of condensed vapour and moisture in the winter months, when the church
is heated, and it is subjected to the fumes of the gas that lights the
church, yet it shows no signs of deterioration; on the contrary, the
surface looks, and feels to the touch, more like terra-cotta, or of the
texture and firmness of biscuit porcelain, than anything else one can
think of.

When one hears of frescos perishing in this country, like some of those
in the Houses of Parliament, we may be sure that the causes are not
always due to the damp climate, nor altogether to sulphur gases, but
either to a badly prepared wall surface, or, what is more than likely,
the use of one or two doubtful colours, that in perishing will even
loosen or destroy other sounder colours when juxtaposed to or mixed with
them.

[Illustration: _Photo. Bolas._]

[_To face p. 30._

PLATE 3.--ST. STEPHEN BEFORE HIS ACCUSERS, AND THE STONING OF ST.
STEPHEN

_Sir E. J. Poynter, Bart., P.R.A., Fresco in St. Stephen’s Church,
Dulwich_]



CHAPTER V

SPIRIT FRESCO PAINTING


The method of painting followed out in the spirit-fresco system, as far
as the manipulation of the colours is concerned, is almost precisely the
same as that of the lime or buon-fresco process, the exception being,
that the over-paintings and retouchings may be executed at any time,
weeks, months, or even years, after any previous painting of the same
parts; but as the preparation of the wall is of course somewhat
different, and the medium is altogether so, a short description of the
method or system may be of interest to students.

Spirit-fresco painting is a method or process invented by Mr. Gambier
Parry of Gloucester, and which he adopted when painting his mural
decorations in St. Andrew’s Chapel in Gloucester Cathedral, and in
Highnam church. The process was adopted by the late Lord Leighton for
the wall paintings of “The Arts of Peace,” and “War,” in the Victoria
and Albert Museum, and, many years previous to the painting of these
works, for the fresco painted by him in Lyndhurst church in the New
Forest. Some of the frescos in the Manchester Town Hall, by Ford Madox
Brown, are painted in this process, and some of the paintings by various
modern artists which decorate the interior of the Royal Exchange are
executed in the spirit-fresco medium on coarse canvas, and afterwards
fastened to the wall.

Although we cannot claim for spirit-fresco that peculiar quality of
monumental dignity, nor the undoubted luminosity or power of reflecting
light that is characteristic of buon-fresco paintings, still, if the
entire system is carefully carried out, from the preparation of the wall
down to the finished painting, the work should be as lasting and as
permanent as any other kind of wall painting.

For instance, the spirit-fresco executed by Lord Leighton in Lyndhurst
church, forty-four years ago, had still retained its brilliancy of
colour and was in a perfectly sound condition three years ago, when the
writer last saw it. In the winter season water from the condensed
moisture constantly runs down the surface of this fresco, but does not
seem to injure it. No amount of damp or wet on the surface will injure
spirit-fresco paintings, as the colours are practically locked up in
wax, upon which water has little or no injurious effect, but if the wall
is damp at the back, or water gets in by accident, the plaster ground
behind becomes soft and friable, and the coloured surface is soon
destroyed. Damp behind the surface is the greatest enemy to this kind of
fresco,

[Illustration:

[_To face p. 32._

PLATE 9.--DETAIL FROM THE ARTS OF WAR FRESCO

_Lord Leighton, Victoria and Albert Museum_]

and consequently the inner surface of an outside wall should not be
chosen for an important work in this process.

As the writer had the honour of assisting Lord Leighton in the execution
of the “Arts of Peace” and “War” frescos in the Victoria and Albert
Museum, and also prepared both walls before the paintings were executed,
he is therefore enabled to give a brief description, as outlined below,
of the whole method of procedure, both as to the preparation of the
walls and the method of painting adopted, which will serve to explain
the system of spirit-fresco painting.

It may be mentioned that the walls were prepared in strict accordance
with Mr. Gambier Parry’s method and directions. Mr. Parry inspected this
part of the work, and declared that the whole preparation had been done
to his satisfaction.

First of all the rough brick surface of the wall had a coating of
plaster, consisting of a mixture of lime and river sand, exactly of the
same proportions, and laid on in the same thickness as that of the first
plaster coating in buon-fresco. After this had remained for two years, a
second coating, again similar in composition and in thickness to that
used in the last-named process, was applied. This plaster coating was
finished off with a rectangular wooden trowel, and, in the case of the
wall on which the “Arts of War” fresco was painted, it was left with a
fairly rough surface. The wall surface of the “Arts of Peace” fresco
was, on the contrary, brought to a much smoother face, as it was the
desire of Lord Leighton to have a smooth surface for the latter
painting, for working on the rough surface of the former fresco was, as
he remarked, “like painting on a gravel walk.”

When the coating of plaster, which was rather more than half-an-inch in
thickness, had remained for about eight months, in order that it might
get thoroughly dry, the wall was saturated with two coats of the “wall
wash,” this being made from the medium in which the spirit-fresco
colours are ground, mixed with one and a half of its bulk of turpentine.
The spirit-fresco medium is a mixture of pure white wax, gum elemi, oil
of spike, and artists’ copal; the proportions of each are given at end
of this chapter. After the second coating of the wall wash had dried in,
a day being allowed for this, a coating made of dry white lead, and half
its quantity of gilders’ whitening, thinned out with wall wash, was
applied as thickly as it could be conveniently used. A little yellow
ochre was added to this mixture in order to obtain a creamy white
ground, which enables the artist to see by contrast the pure white
lights that may be used in the painting, as the work proceeds.

The “Arts of War” fresco ground was treated with one coating only of
this last mixture, which accounted for its extremely rough texture,
while the “Arts of Peace” wall surface had three coatings, as

[Illustration:

[_To face p. 34._

PLATE 8.--DETAIL FROM THE ARTS OF WAR FRESCO

_Lord Leighton, Victoria and Albert Museum_]

the nature of the subject was thought to demand a smoother surface.

The wall wash, preparation coats, and the colours used in the painting,
being all mixed or diluted with the same medium, and the spike oil, used
in the artist’s dipper, having the effect of opening up the ground
coating, allows the colours to unite with, or melt into, the ground, the
latter being extremely porous, so that when finished and dry the work
forms a continuous body from the surface right into the plaster. In this
continuity of body spirit-fresco resembles closely that of the
buon-fresco.

The process admits of repainting and retouching as often as may be
necessary, though it is best, for the sake of gaining a desired luminous
effect, to paint frankly with a full brush, laying on the colour in an
impasto, and where depth of tone or transparency is desired these
effects are best obtained by washing in thinly or glazing the shadows,
using the colours and the spike oil medium, as in water-colour painting.
The method of work is really, in the execution, a mixture of the
techniques of oil and water-colour painting. One of its great advantages
is the practically unlimited range of colours allowed on the palette,
and another is that the artist can take up his work at any time, or
stage, neither of which obtains in buon-fresco.

It may be of interest to describe the method of carrying out the
painting of the work in connection with the South Kensington frescos.
The original designs were painted carefully in brown monochrome, in
light and shade, and were enlarged as fine outlines on a canvas to the
exact size of the wall space; from these enlargements tracings were made
on tracing cloth, and these tracings were pricked through and pounced on
to the wall with powdered charcoal, this impression being intensified by
going over it with a lead pencil. A small coloured sketch in the case of
each fresco was prepared in oil colour, which was fairly closely copied
in the colouring of the larger work. For convenience, the monochrome
cartoons in each case were photographed to full scale, in sections, and
the light and shade was faithfully copied from these photographs, so
that in the execution of the painting on the wall there should be no
hesitation, nor any experimenting in colour.

The first piece of work done on the wall was one of the largest and most
prominent figures, and was painted as far as possible in direct and full
colour. The nature of the medium, however, does not always lend itself
to the finishing of the work straight off in one painting; this is the
case especially in the flesh tints, or in any elaborate drapery
modelling. The method usually adopted was to lay in the tints with a
full brush and solid colour, carrying the modelling as far as possible
in the first painting. Too much working over the same part is liable to
bring up the wax, and to cause the work to dry unpleasantly glossy. When
there is a danger of this occurring it is better to leave off and take
up the part again after

[Illustration:

[_To face p. 37._

PLATE 10.--DETAIL FROM THE ARTS OF PEACE

_Lord Leighton, Victoria and Albert Museum_]

allowing a day or so for drying. When any part required a second or
third painting, which usually happens, it was found best to begin by
moistening the whole of it over with a very thin transparent tint of the
local colour, using plenty of spike oil; this has the effect of opening
up the wall surface by causing a slight melting of the paint underneath.
The painting was then carried to a completer stage of finish by
reinforcing the higher lights and deeper shadows. The process lends
itself to the accomplishment of almost any degree of finish by the use
of subsequent washes of thin colour in the shadows. It is better, as a
matter of technique, in any kind of fresco painting to always employ the
brush strokes in the direction of the lines of the form, and not across
it, as is often done in oil painting; one reason for this is that the
work can be accomplished more directly and rapidly, and another is that
the drawing of the forms is better expressed.

It may be noticed that there is a marked difference in the technique of
the painting of the two frescos in the museum. The “Arts of War,”
painted first, is treated broadly, and the colour throughout used rather
thickly, while in the “Arts of Peace” a thinner method of treatment in
the use of the colour is apparent, and the modelling in the latter,
especially in the heads and nudes, is carried to a higher degree of
finish, without any loss of breadth, by means of small brush strokes, or
“hatching.” This method of work is of special value in fresco painting,
and was adopted to a very great extent by the Italian frescanti of the
fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Michael Angelo painted, or at least
finished his frescos in the Sistine Chapel in hatched lines; Lord
Leighton had satisfied himself on this point by a close examination of
the Sistine frescos when he copied the figure of Adam from the “Creation
of Man,” which is painted in one of the ceiling panels of the chapel.
The broader method of treatment, as seen in the technique of the “Arts
of War” fresco, is the more popular, but Lord Leighton preferred the
technique of his later work, the “Arts of Peace.”

The following are the constituents of the medium in which the spirit
fresco-colours are ground, according to Gambier Parry:--

             { Elemi resin (gum elemi) 2 ozs. } weight
             { Pure white wax 4 ozs.          }
Incorporated {
by heat.     { Oil of spike lavender 8 ozs.   } liquid
             { Finest preparation of artist’s } measure
             { copal 20 ozs.                  }

The colours in a dry powder are ground up in this medium, and put into
tubes for use. Spike oil to be used freely in the dipper, when
painting.

[Illustration: _Photo. Alinari._]

[_To face p. 39._

PLATE 11.--THE BIRTH OF THE VIRGIN

_Giotto, Cloister of Sta. Maria Novella, Florence_]



CHAPTER VI

TECHNICAL NOTES ON THE COMPOSITION, COLOUR, AND PRESENT STATE OF SOME
ITALIAN FRESCOS


During a visit to Italy in the summer of last year the writer made some
notes on the composition, colour, technique, and present state of some
of the Italian frescos, which he hopes may interest the reader.

Among the frescos by Giotto (1276-1336) which still exist in Florence,
perhaps the finest are those in the Bardi Chapel, in the Church of Santa
Croce, where so many of the illustrious Florentines are laid at rest.

                                    “ ... here repose
    Angelo’s, Alfieri’s bones, and his,
    The starry Galileo, with his woes;
    Here Machiavelli’s earth returned to whence it rose.”

The three small frescos on the walls of the cloisters of the Church of
Santa Maria Novella are of great interest to students, as they were
painted by Giotto when his artistic powers were in full maturity, and
are among the best examples of the master.

On the walls and ceiling of the Bardi Chapel, Giotto has painted a
series of frescos illustrating scenes in the life and death of St.
Francis of Assisi. On the right wall, beginning from the top, is the
“Confirmation of the Rules of his Order by the Pope”; “St. Francis
before the Sultan”; “Challenging the Magi to the Ordeal of Fire”; “St.
Francis blessing Assisi”; and, his appearing to the Bishop of Assisi. On
the left wall are the paintings, “St. Francis flees from his Father’s
House,” and, his Death, where he is surrounded by his sorrowing
confraternity. The latter fresco is the lowest one on the left, and is
one of Giotto’s best compositions, though it is not much more than a
coloured outline, and has been much repainted. It is the only painting
of the series in this chapel which has been noticed by Vasari in his
life of Giotto. The figures in this fresco are painted almost in
grisaille, with the exception of the cloak of the kneeling figure of the
podesta, which is a deep red. The sky, which has been repainted, is a
dark blue, in the centre of which appears the figure of the saint in a
halo, surrounded, or supported by four angels on clouds. The colouring
of this portion is in beautiful golden tints, and is evidently the
untouched work of Giotto’s hand. The background architecture is
expressed in broken tints of a yellowish stone-colour. In spite of the
repainting, the complete design and some of the original colouring and
handling still remain. It is

[Illustration: _Photo. Alinari._]

[_To face p. 40._

PLATE 12.--DEATH OF ST. FRANCIS

_Giotto, Bardi Chapel, Sta. Croce, Florence_]

one of the best of Giotto’s didactic works, apart from the excellence of
its design. The saint, sketched calmly in death; the intense, yet
dignified sorrow of some of his surrounding brethren; and the eager
examination by others of the marks of the stigmata, are well expressed
in the attitudes and faces of the central groups of figures, while both
sides of the painting are occupied by observant and stately figures, who
look on the central scene where all the action is represented. This
symmetrical kind of composition, produced by placing the more quiescent
and choragic figures at either side of the picture, and the chief actors
in the centre, was a favourite design of Giotto’s, which he adopted in
many of his great works--among others, for example, in “St. Francis
fleeing from his Father’s House,” painted on the upper part of the left
wall, and in the “Ordeal of Fire,” on the centre of the opposite wall.
It may be pointed out that many Italian artists subsequent to Giotto
have also adopted this arrangement in their decorative compositions.

It is a moot question whether Giotto thought the illustration of the
scene, or the story, or the correct balance and distribution of the
units of his composition was the more important; in any case, however,
he invariably told his story well, no one could tell it better, while at
the same time his compositions are undoubtedly consistent with the
principles of good decoration.

In this chapel of the Bardi, on either side of the window, Giotto has
painted life-size figures of St. Louis (King of France), St. Louis of
Toulouse, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, and St. Claire. Each is standing
under a painted niche of the Campanile-Gothic architecture. The “St.
Louis of France” is the most interesting, and the finest figure of the
series; and although considerably repainted, it has still much of
Giotto’s work left untouched, especially in the head and hexagonal
pointed crown. It is a most dignified and serious rendering of the
saintly king, as he stands in a firm and easy pose, Osiris-like, with
his kingly attributes of sceptre and whip of authority in either hand.

The three small frescos by Giotto, painted on the walls of the
cloisters, in the Church of Santa Maria Novella, at Florence. Two of
these, the “Meeting of Joachim and Anna at the Golden Gate,” and the
“Birth of the Virgin,” are on the recessed wall, on either side of the
tomb of the Marchessa Strozzi-Ridolfi, and on the right of these two
will be found the third, the “Presentation of the Virgin at the Temple.”
These small frescos measure each about 4 feet in width, and are shaped
like quarters of a circle. From the technical point of view, the
“Meeting of Joachim and Anna” is the most interesting, as it has
suffered least of the three from repainting, and there are some fine
passages of beautiful, though faded colour, and of frank and decisive
brushwork, which is decidedly characteristic of the hand of
[Illustration: _Photo. Alinari._]

[_To face p. 42._

PLATE 13.--ST. LOUIS, KING OF FRANCE

_Giotto, Bardi Chapel, Sta. Croce, Florence_]

[Illustration: _Photo. Alinari._]

[_To face p. 43._

PLATE 14.--MEETING OF SS. JOACHIM AND ANNA AT THE GOLDEN GATE

_Giotto, Cloisters of Sta. Maria Novella, Florence_]

Giotto. Joachim is clothed in red drapery, the folds of which are very
naturally arranged, and the technique of the painting of this garment
reveals the swift and sure touch of the master. There is no hesitation
in the execution of the brush-drawn folds, the colour is laid on thinly
and transparently, so that the effect of the light ground is still
apparent through the superimposed tints. Giotto painted his frescos, as
far as one can make out, very thinly, and so aimed in getting a luminous
and almost transparent effect, so we may safely come to the conclusion
that when certain parts of his frescos look heavy and solid we may be
sure that those parts have been repainted by some one else. St. Anna has
blue drapery, and the figure next, on the left, has an orange cloak. The
delightful little angel, repainted however, is of a yellow golden
colour, and the sky has been repainted in a rather too dark blue colour;
it is quite likely that the latter has been originally much lighter, and
the angel deeper and warmer in tone. The architecture of the Golden Gate
and the adjacent buildings, behind the figures, is painted in creamy
white and pinkish tints. The two figures of the passing men with game
are coloured in greys and pale reds, and afford good examples of the
early Italian costume. The landscape of the background is very much
faded to a neutral grey; it may have been clothed with flowers by
Giotto, but the little tufts of vegetation which are now sprinkled over
the hillside are evidently recent additions.

If we wish to see some of the best works in fresco that have been
executed by Beato Fra Angelico (1387-1455), we must visit his old
monastery of St. Mark’s, now the Museum of St. Mark’s, in Florence, and
the best of all are the series of the small frescos painted by him
between 1436 and 1445, walls of the cells, formerly occupied by the
monks of this old monastery. In fourteen of the cells will be found the
small frescos, one in each cell, each measuring about six feet in
height, by about four in width. The remaining cells contain frescos
painted by Fra Angelico’s brother, Fra Benedetto, and the others by his
pupils or assistants. The latter are very inferior in design and
workmanship to those of the first-mentioned series.

In the first cell on the left is painted the scene at the Sepulchre,
where “Christ appears to the Magdalen,” the design and colour of which
are extremely good. The robe on the figure of Christ is of a linen-white
tone, with umberish shades; that of the Magdalen is of a yellowish pink
colour; the hurdle fence which runs across the background of the picture
is of a golden straw colour; trees, flowers and foliage are chiefly in
tints of broken greens, and the rock work and entrance doorway to the
tomb are in cool greys. In the fresco of the second cell, the
“Deposition of Christ in the Sepulchre,” the composing lines of the
draperies and of the rocks flow harmoniously into, and also out of each
other, the figures are so arranged as to form a decorative

[Illustration: _Photo. Alinari._]

[_To face p. 44._

PLATE 15.--CHRIST APPEARING TO MARY MAGDALENE

_Fra Angelico, Monastery of St. Mark, Florence_]

pattern-like effect, at the same time the intense fervour and piety of
the subject is well expressed. The figure of the female saint at the
feet of Christ has a red dress, the remainder of the lower figures have
purple garments, and St. Dominic has the black and white dress of his
order. The “Resurrection,” painted in the eighth cell, has a colour
arrangement of pale purples, greens, white, and dark blue, which is very
harmonious. The colouring of the fresco in the last or inner cell on the
right, the “Adoration of the Magi,” though somewhat faded, is still very
beautiful: the Virgin has a blue dress, and for the rest of the
colouring, peach and plum, and golden tints prevail. The colour schemes
of the frescos in the other cells, that have been painted by Fra
Angelico, are similar to those of the first and second of the series,
with the exception of the tenth, which has the entire background of the
subject, the Presentation in the Temple, painted in a broken Venetian
red colour, which can hardly have been the original colour.

The execution or technique of these small frescos by Angelico is
exceedingly firm and direct; they are frankly painted, without any
apparent hesitation of touch--indeed, in these paintings the student
will find a more masterly freedom in the workmanship than in the case of
the laboured and miniature-like paintings of the more popular
altar-pieces and easel pictures of this master. These remarks apply to
those of the cell frescos, which are the authentic work of this master;
and under this head would come more particularly the first, the third
(the “Annunciation”), sixth (the “Transfiguration”), ninth (“Coronation
of the Virgin”), and the “Adoration of the Magi,” on the wall of an
inner cell.

Two better-known works of Angelico are, the “Annunciation,” on the wall
of the upper corridor, facing the staircase, and his larger work, the
lunette of the “Crucifixion” in the chapter-house of this monastery. The
fresco of the “Annunciation,” which has been considerably repainted, is
very simple in composition, but very effective; and the colouring,
though now dull and opaque, has still something reminiscent of
Angelico’s colour arrangements. The Virgin’s dress is dark blue, with
olive-green lining; the angel’s dress is a pinkish dove-colour; the
grass, foliage, and flowers are in grey greens and white; architecture,
a light stone-colour; and the paling behind is a warm grey.

The great work of the “Crucifixion” in the chapter-house is in a fairly
sound condition, but it has been much repainted. The colour treatment of
the background is somewhat unusual, as it is marked out in three
distinct and sharply divided bands of colour: the upper portion being of
a dark purplish red (the original colour may have been a dark blue), the
central horizontal band of a light vellum tint, and the lower, or ground
colour, of a golden yellow. The painting of the figures in their present
condition is

[Illustration: _Photo. Alinari._]

[_To face p. 46._

PLATE 16.--THE DEPOSITION IN THE SEPULCHRE

_Fra Angelico, Monastery of St. Mark_]

[Illustration: _Photo. Alinari._]

[_To face p. 47._

PLATE 17.--DETAIL OF THE CRUCIFIXION

_Fra Angelico, Monastery of St. Mark, Florence_]

most careful in execution: those on the right half, the Dominican
fathers and brothers, and other founders of religious orders, are in the
dark grey, white, and brown dresses of their orders, the balance of
colour on this side being obtained by the bright red of the Cardinal’s
hat and of a book-cover, and the golden-coloured nimbi of the figures. A
warmer scheme of colour is noticed on the left half of the painting,
where golden tints, soft reds, grey greens, white, and grey complete an
excellent harmony. The figure of Christ on the Cross is in very pale
flesh tints, and has a white garment; the flesh tints of the thieves on
either side being darker in tone. The general effect of the colouring is
very pure and luminous.

After Giotto, we may say, that the artist whose influence is most
apparent in Italian art was the Florentine painter, Masaccio
(1401-1428?). His most important works are the frescos he painted in the
Brancacci Chapel of the Church of S. Maria del Carmine, at Florence. The
instructor of Masaccio is supposed to have been Masolino da Panicale
(1384-1435), who first painted some frescos in the above chapel, and
who, according to Vasari, was commissioned to decorate the chapel with
scenes from the history of St. Peter, some of which he had executed, but
they are no longer in existence, unless we place to his credit the “Adam
and Eve” fresco on the right wall, although some writers have ascribed
this work to Filippino Lippi (1460-1505), the son of the painter
Filippo Lippi, and a scholar of Botticelli.

There are really very few works left by Masaccio, but those which still
are in existence clearly prove that he was far in advance of any artist
of his time in his complete mastery of the human figure, as shown by his
searching and accurate draughtsmanship, his great knowledge of anatomy,
and his facility in giving spirit, action, and vitality to his
decorative compositions. His gifts in these directions place him at the
head of the greatest artists of the early half of the fifteenth century.
His achievements are all the more wonderful if we believe, as it is
said, that he died at the early age of twenty-six, though some
authorities state that he reached the age of forty-one years. The finest
authentic work from his hand is the fresco of “The Tribute Money,” which
he painted on the left wall of the Brancacci Chapel, and this work still
remains as a monument to his great powers. This work is a picture which
includes three scenes in its composition; namely, (1) The central group,
where Christ rebukes St. Peter, around whom are the standing figures of
the apostles, with varied expressions of indignation; the figure in the
foreground, back view, in this group is that of the tax-collector, and
the last figure of this central group, on the right, is a portrait of
Masaccio. (2) The scene on the left, middle distance, represents St.
Peter finding the money in the body of the fish, and (3) that on the

[Illustration]

right is St. Peter giving the money to the tax-collector. The figures
are all admirably drawn, and painted with great breadth of treatment;
that of the back view of the tax-collector is more especially a
remarkable example of accurate drawing and of easy freedom in the pose
and action. The same person, but in front view, represented in the right
scene, has a similar freedom of pose and action, and there is an
intensely gratified expression in his face as he receives the tribute
money. The natural treatment of the hilly landscape of the background is
also far in advance of the landscape-painting of Masaccio’s time.

On the altar wall there is another fresco by this painter, though now in
a very bad state; the subject is “St. Peter baptizing,” where, among
other figures, is the celebrated nude figure of a benumbed and shivering
youth, a figure so well drawn, and so correct in anatomy, that, as Lanzi
says, “it has made an epoch in the history of art.”

Another very fine and authentic work by Masaccio is the “Expulsion from
Paradise,” painted on the left wall of the chapel, where Adam and Eve
are represented as being driven from the gates of Eden by the angel with
the flaming sword. The figures in this intensely dramatic composition
have been borrowed, with little alteration, by Raffaelle, and used in
one of the Loggia frescos, and he has also adapted some other figures
from the paintings in this chapel for the cartoons, and in his frescos
of the Stanze of the Vatican; and yet he, to whom so many others were
indebted, was, as Vasari tells us, “little esteemed in life.” It was
after his death that his real greatness was discovered; for do we not
read that the great artists of Italy and other countries came to study
the work of Masaccio in that veritable school of art, the Brancacci
Chapel of the Carmelite Church, and it was only then that he was truly
honoured? Filippino Lippi founded his style on the work of Masaccio, and
Ghirlandajo, Verocchio, Leonardo, Perugino, Raffaelle, and Michael
Angelo acknowledged his greatness and learned of him. This painter who
was, like many other great men, so little esteemed in life, had, after
his death, this epitaph written on him--

    “I painted, and my picture was as life;
     Spirit and movement to my forms I gave--
     I gave them soul and being. He who taught
     All others--Michael Angelo--I taught:
     He deigned to learn of me....”

[Illustration: _Photo. Brogi._]

[_To face p. 51._

PLATE 19.--ANGELS. DETAIL FROM THE PARADISE

_Benozzo Gozzoli, Riccardi Palace, Florence_]



CHAPTER VII

FRESCO PAINTINGS BY GOZZOLI AND PERUGINO


Benozzo Gozzoli (1420-97), the most celebrated pupil of Fra Angelico, is
seen at his best in his great decorative frescos which adorn the four
walls of a room in the Riccardi Palace in Florence. This room, which had
formerly been the Chapel of the Medici, has its walls completely painted
over with the processional subject, the “Journey of the Magi,” by
Gozzoli, when he was about forty years old. It is one of the best, if
not the best, preserved fresco paintings in Florence. The colouring is
very rich and warm in glowing tones, as in the case of all Gozzoli’s
work which has remained uninjured. The extremely rich effect is
considerably heightened by the free use of gold on the embroideries of
the principal figures, and on the horse-trappings. The work contains
many portraits of the principal people of the time, among which are
those of Cosimo de Medici, Lorenzo the Magnificent, and that of the
artist himself. The kings, in sumptuous apparel, are represented on
horseback, attended by lords, squires, retainers and servants, all
travelling slowly and with much solemnity, through a beautiful country.
A hunting party occupies the left wall, looking towards the window,
where some leopards and hawks, used for hunting, are admirably drawn and
painted. On the recessed wall surrounding the window the scene
represented is Paradise, or the Garden of Heaven, in which many angels
are in prayer, and others soaring in the clouds. The fine condition of
these frescos presents a great contrast to the decayed and almost
obliterated paintings executed by Gozzoli on the walls of the Campo
Santa at Pisa. Very little, indeed, except slight traces, now remains of
the latter paintings, but the cause of their decay is not far to seek.
It is true that all the paintings on the walls of the Campo Santa have
always been exposed to the open air, but the real cause of the
disintegration of the Gozzoli paintings in this place is from their
being painted in tempera, or fresco-secco, and not, as in the case of
the Riccardi frescos, in veritable or buon-fresco. The Campo Santa
frescos by Gozzoli represent scenes from the history of the Old
Testament, from the time of Noah to the Queen of Sheba’s visit to King
Solomon. They were painted between 1469 and 1485, when the artist was in
the zenith of his powers, and from what remains of them we can easily
imagine them to have been the finest of any works executed by this great
nature-loving artist. An Italian artist who was engaged in repairing the
more decayed

[Illustration: _Photo. Brogi._]

[_To face p. 53._

PLATE 20.--ANGELS. DETAIL FROM THE PARADISE

_Benozzo Gozzoli, Riccardi Palace, Florence_]

portions of Gozzoli’s wall paintings in the Campo Santa, in the summer
of 1908, informed the writer that nearly all the remaining colours on
these paintings were in a powdery state on the surface of the wall, and
could easily be dusted off. This rarely happens in the case of paintings
which have been executed in buon or veritable fresco, and there is doubt
that the chief cause of decay and of the faded appearance of many of the
old Italian frescos is due to the fact that they were either executed in
tempera, or in the fresco-secco method, or that they were begun in
buon-fresco and finished afterwards with glazings and opaque touches of
tempera colour. Many of Simon Memmi’s frescos in the Spanish Chapel, in
the Church of Santa Maria Novella at Florence, were repainted or
“restored” about one hundred years after his death, and Ruskin has
stated that some of the restorer’s over-painting has since fallen away,
revealing the very pure original work underneath.

Pietro Vanucci, better known as Pietro Perugino (1446-1524), was one of
the most important artists of the Umbrian school of painting, and was
Raffaelle’s early instructor. He painted many frescos in Florence, where
he lived and worked for about fourteen years, and where he acquired much
of the Florentine manner of design and painting. One of his most
important works in Florence is the great fresco of the “Crucifixion,”
with saints standing around the foot of the cross, which he painted in
three compartments on the wall of the chapter-house of the Church of St.
Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi, in the Via Colona. The design and pose of the
figures in this fresco are very characteristic of Perugino’s manner,
which may be seen in the upcast and wistful expression of the eyes, the
pose of the heads, and devout attitudes of his standing figures. The
illustrations of the two heads from this fresco, here given, are in the
above respects very typical of Perugino’s work; they also admirably show
his method of handling, as well as the brush-marks of the fresco. The
light touches in the beard and hair of the male head are later
reinforcements, but with this exception, the whole of the painting in
these heads is quite likely to be the genuine work of Perugino. Another
fresco in Florence, known as the “Cenacolo di Foligno,” is ascribed to
Perugino; it is in the refectory of the old convent of St. Onofrio, in
the Via Faenza.

This artist painted some important frescos in the Sistine Chapel of the
Vatican, at Rome, some of which are still in existence, namely, the
“Baptism of Christ,” and the “Delivery of the Keys to St. Peter.” It is
recorded that he had also painted a fresco on the wall at the back of
the altar in this chapel, but that it was destroyed in order to make way
for Michael Angelo’s “Last Judgment.” In those palmy days of great
artistic activity it was evident that some difficulty was experienced in
finding sufficient wall space on which the painters of

[Illustration: _Photo. Alinari._]

[_To face p. 54._

PLATE 21.--ST. BENEDICT, FROM THE CRUCIFIXION

_Perugino, Church of Sta. Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi_]

[Illustration: _Photo. Alinari._]

[_To face p. 53._

PLATE 22.--ST. JOHN, FROM THE CRUCIFIXION.

_Perugino, Church of Sta. Maria Maddalena de’ Pazzi_]

that time might execute their numerous commissions, when, as we see,
masterpieces had to be destroyed to make room for still greater works.
If we contrast those spacious days of art with those of our own time and
in our own country, it affords us food for some reflection of a mournful
kind to find there are acres of blank spaces on the walls of our
churches and public buildings, and capable enough artists in our midst
who might be employed to decorate these barren spaces, but nobody, or no
Government, public-spirited enough to entrust modern artists with
commissions to execute such works.



CHAPTER VIII

THE WORK OF PINTURICCHIO AND GHIRLANDAJO


BERNARDINO PINTURICCHIO of Perugia (1454-1513) was an excellent painter
in fresco, although Vasari, in his _Lives of the Painters_, has done
scant justice to his great merits. In the face of much splendid work
that has been done by Pinturicchio, the want of appreciation of his
merits by Vasari is quite inexplicable. Any one who has seen, and
carefully examined his frescos in the Borgia apartments of the Vatican
must acknowledge him as one of the greatest decorative artists of his
time, greater, for example because less conventional, than Perugino, his
contemporary, with whom he sometimes collaborated, and who often got
credit for work which was done by Pinturicchio. To compare his work with
that of Perugino we should say that in the design and colouring of the
former artist there is more life, more spontaneity, and much less
mannerism than is seen in the work of Perugino. In design his wall
decorations are characterized by great variety and plenitude of
incident, and although he may appear at times to aim at the expression
of too

[Illustration: _Photo. Alinari._]

[_To face p. 56._

PLATE 23.--DETAIL FROM CHRIST’S CHARGE TO PETER

_Perugino, Sistine Chapel_]

[Illustration: _Photo. Anderson._]

[_To face p. 57._

PLATE 24.--ST. CATHERINE DISPUTING BEFORE THE EMPEROR MAXIMIANUS

_Pinturicchio, Borgia Appartments, Vatican, Rome_]

much individuality in the figures of his groups, the outcome perhaps of
his great versatility, yet in a masterly way he invariably succeeds in
uniting the various and contrasting elements of his work into one
harmonious arrangement, the unity being largely assisted by the
judicious disposition of his colour, which, generally speaking, is a
harmony of azure and gold. Pinturicchio has been adversely criticised
for his practice of giving undue prominence to some of the mouldings and
other salient points of the painted architecture in his frescos, and the
patterns of embroidery on the dresses of his figures, by modelling them
in low relief and afterwards gilding them, the objection being that such
a practice is not the function of painting; that may be, but surely an
artist may be allowed to treat his subject in his own way, by using any
means to produce the desired end he may have in view, especially if that
end is to produce a beautiful work in harmony with its surroundings.
Artistic heresies may be illogical enough, but it matters very little if
the result is a production of beauty, for do we not often see that some
dreadfully logical people only succeed in producing the ugliness of the
commonplace however careful they may be in the due observance of
artistic laws?

In the vaulted ceiling panels and on the groined ribs of the vaults in
the Borgia apartments there is a good deal of stucco relief modelling of
ornament and animal forms by Giovanni da Udine and Perina del Vaga,
this relief decoration being coloured and gilded, similar to the cameo
reliefs in the loggia of the Vatican, which the two last-named artists
had executed under Raffaelle’s direction; and as Pinturicchio’s frescos
were in all probability painted before the date of the ceiling
decorations, it is not at all unlikely that the relief work on the wall
frescos underneath suggested in a great measure a similar enrichment of
the vaulted ribs and ceilings. In any case the whole of the decorations
on both walls and ceilings of the Borgia apartments are in singular
harmony and unity, although the work has been done by different hands.

Pinturicchio was employed by the Pope, Alexander VI, to decorate the
Borgia apartments; accordingly, the frescos of the second, third, and
fourth rooms were painted by him, with scenes from the life of Christ,
the lives of the Saints, and with allegorical representations of the
arts and sciences respectively. The most important and largest fresco
has the subject of St. Catherine of Alexandria disputing before the
Emperor Maximianus, in the background of which is a representation of
the Arch of Constantine. This is painted on the back wall of the third
room. The figure of St. Catherine is finely designed and painted, and is
supposed to be a portrait of Lucretia Borgia. (See illustrations.) Among
the best work of Pinturicchio are his frescos in the first chapel to the
right in the Church of S. Maria Araceli, Rome, representing scenes from

[Illustration: _Photo. Anderson._]

[_To face p. 58._

PLATE 25.--PORTRAIT OF LUCREZIA BORGIA. ST. CATHERINE DISPUTING BEFORE
THE EMPEROR. DETAIL OF FRESCO

_Pinturicchio, Borgia Appartments, Vatican_]

[Illustration:

[_To face p. 59_

PLATE 26.--THE NATIVITY

_Pinturicchio, Church of Sta. Maria del Popolo, Rome_]

the life of St. Bernard of Siena, and on the vaulted roof is painted the
four Evangelists, all of which are very vigorous and lifelike
representations; the same may also be said of his frescos in the
Baglioni Chapel in the Duomo at Spello. His two frescos in the Sistine
Chapel, “Moses journeying to Egypt” and the “Baptism of Christ,” were
formerly ascribed to Perugino.

The Florentine artist, Domenico Ghirlandajo (1449-1498), was one of the
most eminent fresco painters of his time. He was fond of introducing
sumptuously dressed personages into his works, many of whom were
representations of the people of his day. The powerful Tornabuoni family
of Florence were his patrons, who commissioned him to paint many frescos
in Florence and in Rome. He can claim the distinction of having Michael
Angelo as one of his pupils.

Some of his best existing works are those in the choir of the Church of
Santa Maria Novella, and the Church of St. Trinita at Florence. In the
Church of Santa Maria degli Innocenti, in the Foundling Hospital at
Florence, is a well-preserved altar-piece, a tempera painting on panel
by him, the “Adoration of the Magi,” which is dignified in its design,
and the colouring is brilliant in reds and golden hues, these colours
being very characteristic of his later works. In the background of this
fine work is a beautiful landscape, and at the foot of the hill on the
left is the scene representing the slaughter of the Innocents. The
drapery of the kneeling king is masterly in the design of its folds, but
the standing figure of the youthful king on the left is the most
beautiful of the larger figures. In all the range of Italian art it
would be difficult to match for beauty and for types of innocence the
two little babes, or _innocenti_, who are kneeling at the bottom of the
picture, adoring and adorable, as in every way they are. At the top,
kneeling on clouds above the manger, are four lovely angels holding a
scroll, on which is written, “Gloria in excelsis Deo.” Generally
speaking, his frescos are remarkable for their high degree of careful
finish, and nearly all of the spectators or accessory figures in his
paintings are portraits of his patrons and contemporaries. His
compositions are very simple and dignified, with a certain degree of
solemn severity in the drawing of the principal figures. The latter
characteristic is partly due to his practice of making many of his
figures stately portraits, and partly to the long and straight folds of
his draperies, which remind us of Masaccio’s work, and, in a lesser
degree, that of Giotto. It is interesting to compose and note the
similarity of design which is apparent in his fresco, the “Calling of
SS. Peter and Andrew,” in the Sistine Chapel, with the “Tribute Money,”
by Masaccio, in the Brancacci Chapel of the Carmelite Church at
Florence; and also his celebrated work, the “Death of St. Francis,” in
St. Trinita at Florence, with the same subject painted by Giotto

[Illustration: _Photo. Alinari._]

[_To face p. 60._

PLATE 27.--FLORENTINE LADY. DETAIL OF FRESCO, BIRTH OF ST. JOHN

_Ghirlandajo, Church of Sta. Maria Novella, Florence_]

[Illustration:

[To face p. 61.

PLATE 28.--DEATH OF ST. FRANCIS

_Ghirlandajo, Church of St. Trinita, Florence_]

in the Bardi Chapel of Santa Croce. In the latter work we see piety and
sentiment more strongly expressed by Giotto, while portraiture and light
and shade are more in evidence in Ghirlandajo’s rendering of this
subject, but the figure composition in both works is almost identical.

The frescos by Ghirlandajo in the choir of the Church of Santa Maria
Novella are among the most important of his works, and remain as fine
examples of his skill as a great decorator. The subjects are from the
life of the Virgin and John the Baptist, all of which are treated with
great care and elaboration of rich detail, the utmost finish being not
only accorded to the principal actors in the scenes, but also to the
architectural backgrounds, with their panels and friezes of figures, the
embroidered patterns on the dresses, and other decorative accessories,
in fact all his beauties of style in design, execution, and colouring
are admirably expressed in these characteristic works.

In the Monastery of San Marco in Florence, in the smaller refectory, is
an interesting fresco of the “Cenacolo,” or Last Supper, by Ghirlandajo.
There is a little stiffness and formality in the composition of this
work, but the heads of the principal figures are lifelike and well
painted. The colouring is strong and rich, gold has been freely used in
the nimbi and on the dresses of the figures, and in the background.
Above the figures, in the background, is painted an abundance of
cypress, orange trees, and flowers; while in the sky, hawks are
pursuing wild duck. There is also a similar, but in some ways a much
better, “Cenacolo” by Ghirlandajo in the refectory in the convent of the
Church of the Ognissanti at Florence.

[Illustration: _Photo. Alinari._]

[_To face p. 62._

PLATE 29.--FLORENTINE LADY. DETAIL OF FRESCO, BIRTH OF THE VIRGIN

_Ghirlandajo, Church of Sta. Maria Novella, Florence_]

[Illustration: _Photo. Alinari._]

[_To face p. 63._

PLATE 30.--DETAIL FROM FRESCO, BIRTH OF THE VIRGIN

_Ghirlandajo, Church of Sta. Maria Novella, Florence_]



CHAPTER IX

FRESCOS BY ANDREA DEL SARTO, LUINI, G. FERRARI, RAFFAELLE AND MICHAEL
ANGELO


In the anterior court of the Church of the Santissima Annunziata, in
Florence, there are five fairly well-preserved frescos by Andrea del
Sarto (1488-1530). In the same court there are others painted by his
pupils, and contemporary artists. The best of the five by Andrea is the
“Death of St. Filippo,” where a young man is raised to life by the dead
body of the saint. The colouring is very strong and luminous, and has
the soft melting character of the various tones into each other, which
distinguishes the work of this painter, more especially seen in his
easel pictures. The next fresco in importance of this series is that
which represents the miracles wrought by the robes of St. Filippo, where
children are healed by touching his garments. The colouring of this
painting is lively and fresh, and the effect of light and shade is a
very important feature in the work. The backgrounds of these frescos,
whether architectural or landscape, are at present exceedingly light in
tone, which either means that these parts have faded or have been
destroyed by cleaning. This causes the figures to look completely out of
tone with the pale backgrounds.

The Brera Palace at Milan contains a great number of small and extremely
interesting frescos, that have been removed from various churches and
suppressed convents in the city and neighbourhood, among which are some
very good examples of Bernardino Luini’s work (1470-1530?). Luini was
the most famous scholar of Leonardo da Vinci, and was so greatly
influenced by the latter that many pictures had for a long time been
ascribed to his master. He was a most prolific and industrious artist,
both in fresco and in easel pictures, and as a rule his work is full of
grace and charm. The female figures and children painted by Luini are
always characterized by their easy natural poses, and have a refined
delicacy and sweetness of expression. His colouring, always rich and
warm in tone, is chiefly distinguished by its freshness and purity;
these qualities are best seen in his smaller frescos, now in the Brera
galleries. In the entrance corridor there is an example of his fresco
work, brought from the Church of St. Maria di Brera, in Milan. The
subject is the “Virgin and Child,” with an angel and two other figures,
St. Abate, and St. Barbara, and a boy with a lute. The colour and
drawing of this example are extremely good, though the general
composition is lacking in

[Illustration: _Photo. Alinari._]

[_To face p. 64._

PLATE 31.--FRESCO, INFANT ANGEL

_Luini, Brera, Milan_]

[Illustration: _Photo, Alinari_]

[_To face p. 65._

PLATE 32.--THE VIRGIN AND CHILD WITH ST. JOHN AND ST. MARTHA

_Luini, Fresco in the Brera, Milan_]

cohesion and unity. The “Burial of St. Catherine” is also in the Brera.
It is a small fresco brought from the Convent della Pelucca, and is one
of the more successful works of Luini. Three finely designed angels are
carrying the body of St. Catherine, below which is the tomb. The robes
of the saint are red in colour, while those of the angel on the right
are purple; the middle, green; and the angel to the left has yellow
drapery. The best work, however, by Luini in the Brera is the beautiful
fresco, in the Sala XVI, of the “Virgin and Child” with St. Martha, St.
John, and a nun. In this work the landscape background is remarkably
fresh and pure in colour, and is painted in a very naturalistic manner,
the treatment of the trees, and details of the landscape reminding one
forcibly of a picture by Constable. There are some fine passages of
luminous and harmonious colouring in the draperies, the faces of the
figures have a tenderness and purity of expression, and the whole work
is a convincing example of the master at his best. Being on a level with
the eye, and in a good light, one is enabled to see in this fresco that
Luini’s method of painting consisted in his first modelling the forms in
a solid impasto, and afterwards finishing his work, like the majority of
Italian fresco painters, by shading transparently in finely hatched
lines.

There are other examples of Luini’s fresco work in the Brera, consisting
chiefly of heads and figures of boys. In the old Romanesque basilica
church of St. Ambrogio at Milan, in the first chapel of the left aisle,
is a fresco by him, the “Ecce Homo,” in a fairly good state of
preservation, and in the sixth chapel of the right aisle is his work,
the “Legend of St. George.” The Church of St. Maria della Grazie in the
same city contains his fresco of the “Virgin Enthroned,” with saints
around, the colour and composition of which are good, but an injurious
dusty bloom has appeared on some portions of this fine work. Numerous
examples of Luini’s fresco decorations may be seen in the Church of St.
Maurizo (Monastero Maggiore), including the large “Crucifixion,” on the
wall over the entrance to the choir. This great work contains nearly 140
figures, many of which are of singular beauty. At Saronno, not far from
Milan, in the Church of the Santuario there are also some very important
frescos by Luini, representing scenes in the history of the Virgin, the
best of which is a very fine “Adoration of the Magi.”

Gaudenzio Ferrari (1484-1549) was another Milanese painter, though a
native of Piedmont, but Milan and its neighbourhood was strictly
speaking the centre of his labours. He was a follower of Leonardo da
Vinci, although he had worked with Perugino, and later with Raffaelle.
He painted numerous frescos in Milan, Saronno, and Varallo; most of them
are characterized by life and animation of pose in the figures, and as a
rule his works contain many figures of great merit and beauty,

[Illustration:

[_To face p. 66._

PLATE 33.--ST. LUCY SENTENCED TO DEATH

_Jacopo D’Avanzo, Church of St. Anthony, Padua_]

showing fine qualities of freedom in the execution. But his work as a
whole is unequal, owing to his tendency of allowing himself to be
influenced by that of his contemporaries. The best of his frescos are
those which are most Luinesque in style and character.

In the side entrance of the right aisle, in the Church of St. Ambrogio,
in Milan, Ferrari has painted the frescos, “Christ bearing the Cross,”
and the “Three Marys”; the latter, though darkened much, is in a good
state of preservation, and is now under glass. At Saronno, in the Church
of the Santuario, he has decorated the cupola with an assemblage of
angels and winged boys, some of which are designed with great spirit,
and are beautifully painted. Later work by Ferrari is the fresco
decoration of the fourth chapel in the right aisle of St. Maria delle
Grazie (1542), where he painted the powerful compositions of the
Passion, namely, the “Crucifixion,” the “Scourging of Christ,” and
“Christ Crowned with Thorns.” The figures are life-size, and are
characterized by much animation, strong colouring, and great freedom of
execution.

The works of Raffaelle and Michael Angelo in fresco painting which adorn
the Stanze of the Vatican and the Sistine Chapel, respectively, have
been so much described, and are so well known to students, that any
criticism which might be offered here would amount to an unstinted
appreciation of their labours. It goes without saying that it is a very
serious thing for the sake of Italian Art that so much of the finest
work of these masters has either gone very dark and dirty, or, what is
worse, has in places almost perished by the disintegration of the
colours. The large fresco of the “School of Athens,” in the Stanze of
the Vatican, probably the best work in fresco from the hand of
Raffaelle, is now quite different from what it must have been when first
it was painted. The composition of the figures and some portions of the
original colours still remain, but all else must be entirely changed.
Even where the original colour is still on the wall, such parts are
extremely blackened by age and dirt, but the architectural background,
the central flight of steps, and the foreground around and between the
figures are, on the contrary, much lighter in tone than they must have
been originally, and consequently all the shade and shadows, which
formerly connected the masses of the figure groups together, have
disappeared. The present extreme lightness of tone which surrounds the
dark figures, unduly emphasizes the latter, and gives an unsatisfactory
and very spotty appearance to the general composition, which is at
variance with the early engravings and copies of this fresco. It is
quite likely that the present aspect of this great work is due to the
fact that the cleaners and restorers engaged on it from time to time
have employed their cleansing energy on the background more than on the
figures, and have cleaned off the dirt,

[Illustration: _Photo. Anderson._]

[_To face p. 68._

PLATE 34.--THE FIRE IN THE BORGO

_Raffaelle, Stanza dell’ Incendio, Vatican, Rome_]

[Illustration: _Photo. Braun, Clément et Cie._]

[_To face p. 69._

PLATE 35.--FIGURE OF ADAM, FROM THE CREATION OF MAN

_Michael Angelo, Sistine Chapel, Vatican, Rome_]

and paint as well, so leaving this portion in a clean-looking or light
state; and if we bear in mind that the background work has in all
probability been painted much more thinly, or with less impasto, than
the figures, we can easily imagine that in the parts under notice there
has always been less body of colour to be destroyed by the cleaners. It
is also noticeable that where a blue or grey colour has been used in the
draperies, the painting of such parts has badly perished, which suggests
that either a vegetable or a copper-blue pigment has been used, instead
of a cobalt or an ultramarine blue, or that these parts have been
afterwards repainted in tempera. The other frescos in this room, the
“Mount Parnassus,” and the “Prudence, Fortitude and Temperance,” are in
a much better state than the “School of Athens.”

Michael Angelo’s great work in fresco, on the ceiling of the Sistine
Chapel, is still, fortunately, in a fairly good state, but the “Last
Judgment,” on the altar wall, is very grimy, and in a much blackened
state. One cannot help thinking that a good deal of the dirt could be
removed from this work by a little judicious cleaning.


THE END



INDEX


Andrea del Sarto, 63-64

Architecture, 1

Architecture, principles of, 6

Arts of Peace fresco, 34

Arts of War fresco, 33-34


Bardi Chapel, Santa Croce, Florence, 39-40

Benozzo Gozzoli, 51-53

Borgia apartments, Vatican, 56-58

Brancacci Chapel, Carmelite Church, 47-49

Brera Palace, Milan, frescos at, 64-65

Brown, Ford Madox, 32

Brushes for fresco, 20

Buon-fresco, 9


Campo Santa, Pisa, 52

Cartoons, 16, 17, 24, 56

Cenacolo by Ghirlandajo, 61-62

Cnossus, 10

Colour sketches, 16, 36

Colours for buon-fresco, 17-19


Design in objects of general utility, 5

Drapery painting, 28-29


Egyptian tempera, 11

Encaustic painting, 9


Filippino Lippi, 47

Flesh painting, 25-27

Foundling Hospital, Florence, 59-60

Fra Angelico, 44-46

Fresco-buono, 12

Fresco-secco, 8, 11

Fresco, systems and methods, 8


Gaudenzio Ferrari, 66-67

Ghirlandajo, Domenico, 59-61

Giotto, 39-43

Giovanni da Udine, 57-58

Gloucester Cathedral, 31


Houses of Parliament frescos, 30


Intonaco, 15


Keim’s process, 9


Last Judgment fresco, 68

Leighton, Lord, 32-33

Luini, Bernardino, 64-66

Lyndhurst Church fresco, 32


Masaccio, 47-49

Masolino da Panicale, 47

Method of execution in buon-fresco, 23

Method of execution in spirit fresco, 36-37

Michael Angelo, 38, 50, 54, 68

Monastery of St. Mark frescos, 44-46, 61

Monumental painting, essentials of, 4

Mosaics, 3

Mycene, 10


Painting, 2

Parry, Gambier, 53

Perina del Vaga, 57-58

Perugino, 53-55

Pinturicchio, 56-58

Pompeii, 11

Poynter, Sir E. J., Bart., P.R.A., 16, 30


Raffaelle, 49, 67, 69

Retouching, 27

Riccardi palace, 51

Ruskin, 53


Santa Maria della Grazie, Milan, 66-67

Santa Maria Maddalena de Pazzi, 54

Santa Maria Novella, Florence, 39, 61

Santissima Annunziata, Church of the, 63

St. Ambrogio, Milan, 66-67

St. Catherine of Alexandria, 58

St. Maurizo Church (Monastero Maggiore), 66

St. Stephen’s, Dulwich, 71

Saronno, Church of the Santuario, 66-67

School of Athens fresco, 68

Simon Memmi, 53

Sistine Chapel, 38, 54, 59

Spanish Chapel, 53

Spirit fresco, 31

Spirit fresco medium, 38

Spirit fresco painting, 9


Tempera painting, 9

Test brick for colour, 22

Thera, 10

Tiryns, 10


Undercoating, or ground tint, 21


Vasari, 40, 50, 56

Vatican, Loggia of the, 58

Victoria and Albert Museum, 33


Walls for fresco paintings, 14, 33

Walls, preparation of, 14, 33-34

Water-glass fresco, 9


_Richard Clay & Sons, Limited, London and Bungay._





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