Leon Battista Alberti: On Painting: A New Translation and Critical Edition

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Leon Battista Alberti: On Painting: A New Translation and Critical Edition

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Would you like us to take another look at this review? No, cancel Yes, report it Thanks! You've successfully reported this review. We appreciate your feedback. OK, close. Write your review. This is because the visual rays commence at one point in the center of the eye, form a triangle, of which the subject we are looking at F is the base.

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The one eye view forms two diverging tangents at the extremities of F. These tangents do not touch R and therefore we cannot observe it. The first is the figure; that is, the lines which distinguish the forms of bodies and their component parts. The second is the colour contained within those limits. The form of bodies is divided into two parts: that is, the proportion of the members to each other, which must correspond with the whole; and the motion… of the figure. For this is reckoned a common fault in painters, to delight in the imitation of themselves.

We can draw with so fixed a line that the subject appears stiff and lifeless. In the alternative, we can create action lines that are leaning too far off their balance, giving a viewer the sense that the subject will topple over. So the importance here relies on correct observation of movement and its portrayal so that the design will reveal a good balance between movement and equipoise.

After that, trace upon paper what you have drawn on the glass, which tracing you may paint at pleasure, observing the aerial perspective. Alberti states that the ultimate aim of an artist is to imitate nature — especially emphasizing its beauty. He also suggests drawing grids on glass windows so artists can copy the scene. Two of his woodcut illustrations of perspective devices and drawing systems are includes here. But the knowledge of the situation, quality, and quantity of shadows, being infinite, requires the most extensive study.

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The proof of this is, that the lines may be traced upon a veil or a flat glass placed between the eye and the object to be imitated [as described above in On Drawing Systems]. But that cannot be of any use in shadowing, on account of the infinite gradation of shades, and the blending of them, which does not allow of any precise termination; and most frequently they are confused. The extremities of objects which are at some distance, are not seen so distinctly as if they were nearer. Therefore the painter ought to regulate the strength of his outlines, or extremities, according to the distance.

The boundaries which separate one body from another, are of the nature of mathematical lines, but not of real lines. The end of any colour is only the beginning of another, and it ought not to be called a line, for nothing interposes between them, except the termination of the one against the other, which being nothing in itself, cannot be perceivable; therefore the painter ought not to pronounce it in distant objects. Leonardo writes quite a bit about this topic from what surfaces receive the most color, the truest colors, and include recommendations for mixing colors to form secondary colors.

With these he begins his mixtures. Leonardo refers to beautiful colors, transparent colors, colors with and without gloss; colors of shadows, and colors of remote objects. We learn that the surface of any object participates of the colours of other objects near it, it is evident that a white surface will participate of the colour of the air by which it is surrounded.

Let the colours vanish in proportion as the objects diminish in size, according to distance. Whatever be the colour of distant objects, the darkest, whether natural or accidental, will appear the most tinged with azure. By the natural darkness is meant the proper colour of the object; the accidental one is produced by the shadow of some other body. Leonardo da Vinci — A Treatise on Painting. Translated by John Francis Rigaud. Dover Publishers.