Sfumato Archive

Sfumato is the art-technique developed by the legendary Renaissance painter Leonardo da Vinci which aims to create a whole different look-and-feel in the painting. The technique is mostly known for its use for the masterpiece “Mona Lisa“.

Sfumato is one of the main four canonical painting modes of the Renaissance period. Lesser known fact is that Leonardo practiced Sfumato on many other paintings before he mastered it in Mona Lisa.

Sfumato Definition

Oxford dictionary states Sfumato as “the technique of allowing tones and colours to shade gradually into one another, producing softened outlines or hazy forms”.

But, for general understanding, Sfumato is a technique of using colors in a way to blur the clear hard lines and deliver a smooth picture.

Sfumato Technique

This technique sometimes makes a picture somewhat foggy but has produces great appearance overall. Sfumato even softens the area of face where the hard lines usually appears naturally. Thus, the blurry effect puts us keep looking at the picture trying to find out what is ‘wrong’ with the picture.

Sfumato’s use in Mona Lisa is mainly at the corner of her lips and her eyes where the attempting to soften the outlines has left us perplexing if the woman is actually smiling or not.

Sfumato Word Origin

Leonardo was an Italian artist and that’s why he used an Italian word as the base of the word “Sfumato”. Sfumare in Italian meant “to evaporate” like smoke. Just like smoke doesn’t have clear lines to clearly differentiate it from the air, in the sfumato technique, colors were used in somewhat same manner. That’s why, the technique is also called as “Leonardo’s Smoke”.

Practitioners of Sfumato

Among the well-known practitioners of the Sfumato techniques were Leonardo da Vinci, Correggio, Raphael and Giorgione. After Leonardo mastered the technique and glorified it in its two masterpieces “Virgin of the Rocks (Louvre version)” and “Mona Lisa”, the Leonardeschi (the followers of Leonardo da Vinci) also tried the technique in their own works. Leonardo’s prominent students and followers who used it were Bernardino Luini and Funisi.

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Mona Lisa has been described as the best known, the most visited, the most written about, the most sung about, the most parodied work of art in the world. The prominent reasons for its fame varies from its well-known renaissance creator Leonardo da Vinci, his then-new technique called Sfumato developed by the same artist and the most prominent reason of all being the mystery of depicted woman’s smile. Who Painted Mona Lisa Renowned as a genius in the world, who made many unbelievable inventions, Leonardo da Vinci painted Mona Lisa using his self-invented Sfumato technique, one of the four canonical painting modes of the renaissance. His other known creations are The Last Supper (a Fresco), Vitruvian Man (a drawing) and Virgin of the Rocks. Know more about him here. Mona […]

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Leonardo executed very few works during his lifetime compared to other renaissance artists. A major reason is that, he was involved in way too much other works associated with science of human anatomy, botany, physics, armory, architecture and many others. But, on the other hand, his deep research and observation in each field helped him between his various fields at some points. The field of painting includes almost everything the nature has to offer and Leonardo just observed everything from fossils, mountains to the moon. Deriving information and hidden facts (for his time) from sources, mostly his every painting came out as a masterpiece from the artistic view point. His every new composition, color, style and new techniques were followed by the Leonardeschi. Sfumato After […]

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Lady with an Ermine is one of the four ladies painted by Leonardo, other three being Mona Lisa, La belle ferronnière and Ginevra de’ Benci. The Lady with an Ermine has segments of Pentimento as by radiography. A window has been detected on the upper right side, which was deleted later on by the artist. The painting consist some work called “Moti Mentali” meaning mental emotions. The term was mostly referred to Leonardo’s work and means the artist’s ability to depict the real mental thoughts, emotions and disposition of the subject on his/her face. That’s the painting has been described as “signaling a breakthrough in the art of psychological portraiture.” Another noticeable element is artist’s little use of his well-known style of Sfumato around the subject’s […]

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