Translation and introduction by Daniel V. Thompson
This is Daniel V. Thompson's definitive English translation of "II Libro dell'Arte," an intriguing guide to methods of painting written in 15th century Florence. Embodying the secrets and techniques of the great masters, it served as an art student's introduction to the ways of his craft.
Anyone who has ever looked at a medieval painting and marvelled at a brilliance of colour and quality of surface that have endured for 500 years, should find this fascinating reading. It describes such lost arts as gilding stone, making mosaics of crushed eggshell, fashioning saints' diadems, colouring parchment, making goat glue, and regulating your life in the interests of decorum - which meant shunning women, the greatest cause of unsteady hands in artists. You are told how to make green drapery, black for monks' robes, trees and plants, oils, beards in fresco, and the proper proportions of a man's body ("I will not tell you about the irrational animals because you will never discover any system of proportion in them.") So practical are the details that the reader might be tempted to experiment with the methods given here, for his own amusement and curiosity.
Today, artists are no longer interested in specific directions on keeping miniver tails from becoming moth-eaten. "The Craftsman's Handbook," in which these are ordinary parts of the artist's work, appears quaint and naive to us. And that is much of its charm. But when we remember the magnificent mosaics, paintings, and frescoes these methods produced, the book takes on an even greater value as a touchstone to another age.
1st Dover edition in print since 1954, Pb, 142pp, 13.7 x 20 cm