The barbe is the ridge of paint that forms at the edges of a painting during the application of the undercoat and the execution of the painting itself. It is revealed when the frame is removed from the support to which it was fixed.
In painting, a bird’s-eye view is like a high angle shot in film. In other words, it represents an aerial view (a view from above) that forms an angle of less than 90° above the horizontal plane.
A cartoon is a full-sized model for an artwork. It is used to reproduce the work on another support, or to recreate it using a different technique. The term can therefore be applied to any technique, drawing, or painting, and in the case of the final work, to any kind of transfer, support, or technique.
Craquelure is a network of fine cracks that appears on (all or part of) the surface of a painting, due to ageing, drying, mishandling, or changes in climate conditions.
Dovetail-shaped wood wedges inserted against the grain to hold two sides of a crack or two pieces of wood in place. They measure between one third and a half of the thickness of the panel into which they are inserted, and can be placed on either the front or the back.
An Italian word from the Greek gypsos meaning plaster. A soft, chalky mineral called gypsum is blended with animal glue and water to make traditional gesso, which in southern Europe is the most commonly used primer (preparatory coating) for paintings, especially on wood panels.
A light, transparent and very fluid layer of paint or varnish. Fine, uniform coats of glaze are applied to modify the color and appearance of the pigments underneath. It purifies and intensifies each color by subduing those that lie adjacent to it on the color wheel (for example, it creates a pure blue by subduing its green or violet tones). The use of glaze is an oil painting technique par excellence.
The Italian word guarnello refers to the gauze veil (of cotton, linen, wool, or silk) that covered certain dresses worn in Renaissance Italy, especially pregnancy dresses and indoor gowns.
A horizontal plane across an image that determines the viewer's eye level. The horizon line is where land and sky appear to meet.
Historically, an icon is a representation of a religious figure in the Orthodox Christian tradition. In contemporary culture, it has come to refer to any emblematic figure that is instantly and enduringly recognizable to a community. The term can refer to a symbol or person, or to their name or image.
Infrared reflectography (IRR), a non-destructive observation technique based on infrared light, is used to visualize details concealed under layers of paint. It can reveal evidence of hidden preparatory drawings or pentimenti. The radiation penetrates the pictorial layer visible to the naked eye. Elements drawn with graphite or carbon absorb the light, while the ground layer (gesso, a white primer) reflects the infrared radiation back to the camera, forming a negative image of the underlying layers. A change in the frequency of the IRR radiation makes it possible to vary the reflective and absorbent materials.
Lacuna (pl. lacunae)
The Latin word lacuna designates a gap in an entity. In reference to painting, a lacuna is a small area of paint loss to one or more of the paint layers in the work itself, or sometimes of damage to the fabric of the support.
The loggia is an architectural feature that appeared in Italy in the Renaissance. Usually a covered area, it provides a view of the outside between the columns of its arcades. Attached to the façade of a building at ground level or higher, it is closed on one side but is usually accessible through the inside of the building.
The literal meaning of the Italian expression non finito is “unfinished.” In an artistic context, it refers to the aesthetic of incompletion, which expresses the impossibility of attaining perfection or of reproducing nature in all its subtlety. The use of the term non finito suggests a deliberate decision on the artist’s part.
Onomastics, from the Greek onomastikos (the art of naming), is the study of the origin of the proper names of people and places.
Overpainting is the application of paint, after the completion of a painting, by someone other than the original artist. It should not be confused with the pentimento, which is a change made by the original artist during the process of painting the work. Overpainting is generally used to fill a lacuna, but often overlaps onto the paint layer too.
The original function of a parapet (from the Italian parapetto) was to defend a building from military attack. This low wall on the edge of a balcony, terrace, roof, or other architectural structure is built to elbow height to serve as a guard rail.
A pentimento is an alteration made to a painting by the artist during the execution of the work using the same material. A pentimento is sometimes perceptible on the surface of a work because of an extra thickness in the paint layer, premature craquelure or, over time, an increased transparency or darkening of the surface layer.
The wooden pozzetto chair is typical of the Italian Renaissance. The semicircular molded armrest is joined to the seat of the chair with spindle-shaped balusters, creating a form reminiscent of a well (pozzo, in Italian).
Radiography is an imaging technique that uses electromagnetic radiation, usually in the form of x-rays for medical purposes. It produces images whose contrast depends on the thickness and the attenuation coefficient (how easily a material can be penetrated by a beam of light) of the structures traversed. An x-ray, or radiograph, is the name of the resulting image on a photosensitive film.
In the context of painting restoration, retouching is the application of pigment to worn areas or lacunae in a paint layer. Like overpainting, retouching is not carried out by the original artist, and is done after the completion of the painting. Contrary to overpainting, however, retouching never overlaps the edges of the lacuna it fills.
Sfumato, from the Italian fumo (smoke), is an optical effect (at the micron scale) that is used to depict forms as if they were seen through a thin veil of smoke, i.e. without clearly defined outlines. Technically speaking, sfumato may have been obtained by superposing thin layers of paint (after first sketching the shadows) and by subtly modeling the forms with oil paint─in other words, by creating glazes.
Ultraviolet fluorescence (photography)
Within the framework of technical analysis, ultraviolet fluorescence (UVF) photography uses light emission for scientific purposes. A light source emits an ultraviolet ray that generates different types of fluorescence depending on the nature of the materials being examined. Exploration of this kind can detect irregularities in the surface under observation, revealing the layers of varnish and any restoration treatment done on the work. Any areas of overpainting or retouching detected by this means appear as dark stains on the UV fluorescence photograph.
In painting, a varnish is a protective layer or resinous binder. Its main purpose is to protect the paint layer, but it can also smooth over any irregularities and intensify the color of the pigments. Varnish is usually characterized by transparence, fluidity, shine, and spreadability, but all natural resins turn more or less yellow with age.