Notebook

Notebook, 1993-

Il Libro dell' Arte - Cennino D' Andrea Cennini. The Craftsman's Handbook. The Italian "Il Libro dell' Arte." Translated by Daniel V. Thompson, Jr. New York: Dover Publications, Inc. 1933, by Yale University Press.

Notes 1-50   Notes 125-162   Notes 163-283

Notes 51-124


51. This caution makes certain the identification of verde azurro with malachite. The green color of this pigment practically disappears if the crystals are ground too fine. Malachite green is easily recognized by its blue-green color, and sandy, crusty surface. No other green pigment, known to have been used in the Middle Ages, and possessing the characteristics assigned to verde azurro in this chapter, stands in the close relation to a blue pigment which Cennino specifies for this, as malachite does to azurite. I therefore feel justified in translating verde azurro as "malachite," and azurro della Magna, as "azurite." (See n. 1, p. 35, below.)

52. Prungnole salvatiche: These are not necessarily the fruit of any tree known to modern botany as a Prunus. They may be identical with the pruni meroli or prugnameroli, of the De arte illuminandi (ed. de La Marche, cit. supra, pp. 71, 83, 84), which the author tells us were found near Rome. Petrus de Sancto Audemaro, 159 (Merrifield, op. cit., I, 127), speaks of adding some succum cerosium to a mixed green apparently to improve the color. So far, a member of the large family of Prunus seems to be suggested: possibly P. spinosa.

As far as I have been able to learn, no Prunus fruits produce a juice of a strong yellow color (I have every reason to believe that that of P. spinosa is a rich red); and it is evident from the use made of them by Cennino that the prungnole salvatiche were either very yellow or green. The "Bolognese Manuscript," 96 (Merrifield, op. cit. II, 423-425), "Affare verde azurro" (not to be confused with the verde azurro of Cennino), describes a green made from blue stained with saffron, and mentions as alternative to the saffron, "quella terra gialla tenta cum lo sugo de spino gerbino et vira verde; o vero cum lo sugo de spino gerbino." This spino gerbino, the use of which parallels so closely that of the prugnole in Cennino's rule, is a variety of Rhamnus. Niccolo Tommaseo, Dizionario, s.v. "cervino," states: "Per lo piu è aggiunto d'una specie di Ramno detto Spincervino . . . (Rhamnus infectorius, L) che è pianta delle cui coccole non mature [compare "Paduan Manuscript," 29, Merrifield, op. cit., II, 663] si fa il Giallo santo, e colle mature [compare "Bolognese Manuscript," 89, ibid., p. 421] il Verde di vescica." (See also Vocabolario . . . della Crusca, s.v. "cervino," 11.)

The question must be left open for the present, but there is a fair possibility that the prugnolo which bore Cennino's prugnole salvatiche was a Rhamnus, and that its fruits were "plums" only in a popular, unscientific sense. Rhamnus infectorius is not the only possibility: R. alaternus and R. catharticus might easily have been available, or even perhaps, the superior oriental varieties, R. saxatilis, R. amygdalinus, and R. oleoides. These are the kinds which until fairly recent years found considerable use under the name of "Persian berries" as yellow dyestuffs. "Yellow berries" was the name applied generally to the whole group, and it is tempting to translate Cennino's prungnole salvatiche in that way.


53. Something seems to have been omitted here: probably a direction to mix the verdigris withi saffron. See Chapter XLVIIII, p. 30, above.

54. It is hard to estimate the extent or character of these lacunae, and any reconstruction of this passage must be too much a matter of conjecture for inclusion here.

A rule for preparing the pigment from mineral azurite may be found in the "Bolognese Manuscript," 17, Merrifield, op. cit., II, 365-369. But for practical purposes I may mention here that it is necessary only to crush and grind a piece of the stone, and to wash the resulting powder by decantation. By saving the washings and allowing them to settle separately, numerous grades of pigment, varying in finess and color, will readily be secured. (See p. 93, below, for the use of a set of these graded blues.) This process is described by Ambrogio di Ser Pietro da Siena in his Ricepte daffare piu colori, appended to a Confessional, Siena, MS. I, 11, 19 (dated 1462), fol. 101. A translation of this passage follows:

"When you want to refine azurite (I'açurro de la Magna), take three ounces of honey, as light as you can get, and cut it with a little hot lye, not too strong. And then put in a pound of blue, and mix it up. Get it tempered so that you can grind it. Then take a little of this blue; put it on the porphyry, and grind it well. And put all the ground part into a glazed porringer by itself, and put into it some lye as hot as your hand can bear. And get the blue well spread through it, and mix it and stir it up thoroughly with your hand. Then let it settle until all the blue goes to the bottom. Then draw off all the water; and if you find that the water is charged with blue, put it into another porringer, and let it settle thoroughly. And then take some hot water and put it on to the blue, mixing it up with your hand as described above so as to get all the honey out of it. And then divide it up in this way:

"Take some warm water and put some on to the blue, and mix it up with your hand, as stated. Then let it settle for a while, and promptly put this water so tinted into another porringer; and keep all the substance of the coarse blue which stayed in the bottom separate, because that is the first grade, that is, the coarsest. And do the same with the second porringer which has settled for a while. Put that tinted water into another porringer. And this grade will be the best. And treat the second, third and fourth in this way.

"When you have divided the blue by this means, take it out of the porringers, and put it to dry on a clean plate, or a little panel, well cleaned. And now that the second will be sky blue, which is good for pen-flourishing with the addition of a clothlet. The fourth is not good for much, but it is fit for making a green color with arzica when you are working with the brush or pen."

I have translated the isolated word pastello here as "plastic," as in Chapter LXII, passim; but it is quite possible that it should be read "woad" (French, pastel), the herb Isatis tinctoria, much used in imitation of indigo. My chief reason for perferring the translation "plastic" lies in the following passage from the Liber Dedali Philosophi, Florence, Biblioteca Riccardiana, MS L.III.13, 19, foll. 195v, 196r, quoated from ed. J. Wood Brown, in An Enquiry into the Life and Legend of Michael Scot (Edinburgh, 1897), Appendix III, 14, pp. 245, 246:

". . . Invenitur quedam vena terre iuxta venam argenti. Illa terra optime teritur et distemperatur cum aqua calida et ponitur super linteum positum super aliquo vase, et colatur subtiliter. Et quod grassum et feculentum cadit in vase, proice. Quando autem fuerit purum vel iuxta illud, exsiccabitur et recondetur. Si autem non fuerit bene purum, terantur adhuc bene, et ponantur in aqua calida, et accipiatur pix, cera et masticis. Et dissolvatur et ducatur ita cum manu per vas ubi est azurum. Et depuabit eum a superfluitatibus terreis. Et si vena fueit bona, azurium erit bonum. Si male, azurium erit malum."


55. See the similar caution, p. 31, above, against grinding malachite too much. As these pigments depend for their color on light transmitted through them, it follows that excessive grinding, by increasing the reflecting surface and resultant scattering of light, will reduce their effectiveness as colors in any medium of low refractive index.

56. That is, of course, the mixture with white lead, for use on panel.

57. Non si bello violante. The translation violante as "violet" --or, better, "inclining toward violet" --in this connection is justified by the context. Further evidence that a violet cast was held in general esteem may be seen in the direction given by "Bolognese Manuscript," 19, in Merrifield, op. cit., II, 371: "Accipe lapis lazuli . . . et sit coloratus colore violatii"; and in many rules similar to Cennino's, on p. __, below, for mixing a crimson color with the blue. (Examples of these may be seen in the Liber diversarum artium, Montpellier, École de Médecine, MS 277, in Catalogue général des manuscrits des bibliothèques publiques des départements, I [Paris, 1849], 746, and in the "Bolognese Manuscript," 70, Merrifield, op. cit., II, 411-413.)

58. See below, p. 93, and Chapter LXXII, pp. 51, 52. These draperies are biancheggiati, "modeled up," in contrast to the type of blue drapery described in Chapter LXXXIII, pp. 54, 55, below, in which the only modeling is darker than the ground of blue.

59. See n. 1. p. 37, above.

60. Grana. See NED, s.v. "grain," III, 10, a; also ibid., s.v. "kermes."

61. Verzino appears in medieval Latin manuscripts in various forms, among others: versinum, berxinum, berxilium, brexilium, brasilicum. I translate as NED, "brazil," I, 1, a; though the commonest equivalent in trade is probably "Pernambuco" or "Fernambuco." Botanical distinctions among the Caesalpiniae which yield the sort of wood known to Cennino as verzino are not very carefully regarded nowadays, and were probably still less so in Cennino's time. The matter has no great significance, however, for the coloring principle, Brazilin, is common to them all. Any of the group (classification attempted by F. Ullmann, Enzyclopädie der technischen Chemie, V [1930], 143-144] will pass as verzino; possibly Caesalpinia echinata, or C. cristata, is, all told, most likely to be the one Cennino knew.

62. Vermiglio. Not "vermilion," but crimson, the color of kermes, the "Vermiculus, color rubeus . . . qui fit ex frondibus silvestribus . . . et Grece ipsum dicunt coctum," of J. LeBègue's "Tabula de vocabulis sinonimis et equivocis colorum, etc." (Merrifield, op. cit., I, 38).

63. See n. 2. p. 37, above.

64. Con groppo o ver nodo di bomare o ver versuro. For my translation of bomare and versuro see W. Meyer-Lübke, Romanisches etymologisches Wörterbuch (Heidelberg, 1911), 9447 and 9245.

65. Calcina: in this case "lime"; but generally to be rendered "lime mortar," or "mortar" for brevity. In this text it is, I think, impossible to render calcina always as either "lime" or "mortar." Cennino's plastering terms in general present considerable difficulty: I cannot find precise English equivalents for calcina, intonaco, smalto, and smaltare. "Plaster" and "mortar" do heavy duty in English. "Parget" (see NED) might be pressed into service, but it is scarcely familiar enough in the United States to admit its use here.

66. Diagonal lines from corner to corner would, of course, intersect at the center of the whole area. If the composition were a large one, plumb lines might be dropped, other sets of diagonals snapped, and the "centers of the spaces" determined ad lib. See n. 3, below.

67. The construction which follows is perfectly general. The arcs may be swung from any center on any plumb line, according to where the horizontal is wanted: near the edges, for borders, or well up in the composition for a horizon. Short horizontals might be required across a subdivision of the total area, as for an architectural subject (see pp. 56, 57, below), and these would be constructed on the vertical axis of that subdivision. It should be remembered that very large areas might be involved, and that the size of compasses is somewhat limited in practice. Even with a two-foot radius, which would be cumbersome, the points on the horizontal would be only about three and a half feet apart; so for a horizontal border thirty or forty feet long it would be wise to repeat the construction on lines snapped plumb through several sections.

The space to be decorated may readily be "squared up" in this way, for enlarging a drawing; but Cennino does not seem to have had this in mind.


68. That is, the intersection of the arc with the vertical axis, as I understand it.

69. Modern practice would probably rely on a long spirit level to determine points on the horizontal to be snapped; but failing that instrument, Cennino's geometry might be trusted safely.

70. Literally, "And arrange your areas always even and equal." Cennino was not always successful in theoretical expression, and I have taken some liberty in interpreting this precept. I do not wish, however, to minimize the difficulty of conveying the idea.

In painting of the sort which Cennino describes, form is indicated conventionally in terms of modeling, light and dark, applied over clearly marked areas of local color. Each of these areas, besides being a unit in the whole design, possesses in itself a separate entity. The edges of these areas, the shapes and sizes of the areas themselves, are conspicuous; and they must be designed for perfection in themselves as well as in relation to the whole. The idea of "scale," achieved through the repetition of a uniform measure throughout the composition, has been brought out by Cennino in Chapter XXX, p. 17, above.


71. That is, the preliminary layout on the rough plaster, over which the finish plaster and final painting are applied.

72. Or "foresee."

73. Il lavorare in frescho.

74. See Chapter XXXVIIII, p. 23, above, and ibid., n. I.

75. L, per ragioni, might be interpreted as "by values." R has per ragione.

76. I, 43, l. 12: read with R, Alcuni campeggiano.

77. The reading of R may be preferred: "Just make them with verdaccio and shaped up with white, at first." This corresponds more closely to the practice described in the previous chapters.

78. A numeral is omitted here: the omission is marked in L.

79. I, 47, l. 8, read: "Fresco, E, in murro, (s)e."

80. See n. 2, p . 37, above.

81. I, 49, l. 26, read: "rimenata. Con."

82. Ibid., l. 27, read: "sodo, ecchol."

83. NED, s.v. "shot," 5, c; Cennino's word is cangiante. See DuCange, Glossarium, s.v. "cangium." J. Karabacek, "Neue Quellen zur Papiergeschichte," in Mitteilungen aus der Sammlung der Papyrus Erzherzog Rainer, IV (1888), 119, offers ingenious arguments for deriving this word from the name of the "durch ihte satinirten Stoffe berühmten chinesischen Stadt Chanfá (arab.)."

84. I, 53, l. 6, read: "di nero, [mal]le due."

85. This roughing of the surface gives a lighter value without the use of white. It is, as Cennino sugggests, of limited application, even in secco; in panel-painting it is not to be practiced, for varnish nullifies the optical effect upon which the lighter value depends. The point of this ingenious trick is to keep the blue at its maximum intensity in the lights, in contrast to the technique described in Chapter LXXII, pp. 50-52, above. There, the maximum intensity is found only in the deep shadows; the lights are neutralized progressively, by the addition of white. Here, all is to be pure blue except such portions as are neutralized, in the direction of black, by the thin surface modeling of the shadows. The only light modeling regarded as consistent with the display of this fair field of valuable color is achieved by the optical trick described. A clear understanding of this distinction is necessary to grasp the significance of the vestiri biancheggiati mentioned in Chapter LXXII. See n. 2, p. 37, above.

86. See chapter LXVII, p. 43, above.

87. Bollire per mezo: Dr. A. P. Laurie, The Painter's Methods and Materials (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1926), pp. 31, 32, and 41, in discussing the related passage in Chapter LXXXXII, se v'el tieni tanto che torni per mezo, brands the translation "reduced to one-half" as "nonsense." Dr. Laurie suggests the alternative translation of mezzo as "bleached." A simpler explanation will serve: the total volume of oil does not diminish, it is true, but upon exposure to sun and air a pellicle of "dried" oil forms, and as the drying process advances the volume of oil available for painting purposes is reduced. In this sense, a quantity of oil may be "reduced to a half" by exposure to the sun. Similarly, in boiling, waste takes place, and a quantity of oil may be "boiled down to a half." If any doubt remained, the unequivocal order, "Fac bullire tam diu donec medietas olei sit consumpta," from the Secreta magistri Johannis ortulani vera et probata, should remove it. (See Ludwig Rockinger, "Zum baierischen Schriftwesen im Mittelalter," Abhandlungen der historischen Classe der küniglichen bayerischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, XII [1872], 1te Abteilung, p. 47. See also I, 65, l. 12; and p. 66, l. 10, bollire chettorni per terzo, and compare with this p. 67, l. 23.)

88. Quando ettornato per mezo: see no. 1, above.

89. See n. 1, p. 58.

90. See p. 113, below.

91. So R: dorato e bianco. L has dorato in bianco, which might be interpreted as "white made golden." See n. 1, pp. 61 ff., below.

92. See n. 3, pp. 61 ff., below.

93. See n. 3, below.

94. A word seems to be missing here: perhaps "thin." In the apparatus, I, 59, for "23" read "24."

95. Doratura, that is deauratura; see NED, s.v. "vermeil," 4, a. The ancient and widespread tradition represented here must be made the subject of a separate study; but some instances are cited below in support of my translation of dorato as "golden," and also to indicate the general character of the material, doratura.

Two rules in the Compositiones ad tingenda . . ., "De tinctio petalorum," and "De inductio exorationis" (ed. Muratori, Antiquitates [Milan, 1739], II, 385, B-C, and 381, D; ed. also, with translation, in J. M. Burnam, A Classical Technology Edited from Codex Lucensis, 490 [Boston, 1920], pp. 67, 68, and 129; 58 and 120, 121), reappear with variants in the Mappae clavicula. (See ed. T. Phillipps, Archaeologia, XXXII [1847], 212, cxvi; 227, ccviii; 211, cxv.) Theophilus' Schedula, MSS L2 and P (see my article, "The Schedula of Theophilus Presbyter," Speculum, VII [1932], 203), outlines the use of gold leaf laid over varnished tin for use on walls. (See ed. A. Ilg. in Quellenschriften, VII [Vienna, 1874], 55.) The Schedula gives also (ed. cit., pp. 57-59) a rule of somewhat different character for coloring "tabulas stagneas tenuatas ut tanguam deauratae videantur" to be used "loco auri quando aurum non habetur," allied to Cap. XIII, "De deauratura petulae stagni," in Heraclius, De coloribus et artibus Romanorum. (See Merrifield, op. cit., I, 221.) (In this chapter Heraclius describes as deauratura an amalgam of tin with mercury; and in Cap. XIV the term seems to be applied to an amalgam of gold with mercury; but neither of these is the doratura of Cennino.)

Petrus de Sancto Audemaro, Liber de coloribus, devotes five sections to the subject ( 205-209 in Merrifield, op. cit., I, 161-165): "De modo attenuandi [read tinguendi?] laminas stanni ut attenuatas," etc. The recipe "Ad ponendum aurum finum super stagno aurato " in J. LeBègue's Experimenta de coloribus, 105 (Merrifield, op. cit., I, 95), involves still a different type of procedure, but confirms the distinction between "golden" and "gilded" tin.

Cennino's doratura was evidently a sort of transparent yellow oil-gold-size, which could be used as a lacquer on tin, to produce a golden effect; or, alternatively, as a mordant for gilding with leaf over tin foil, either plain or previously lacquered with doratura. Montpellier, École de Médecine, MS 277, approximately contemporary with the Libro dell'Arte, contains (No. 17) a Liber diversarum artium (published in Cataloque général des manuscrits des bibliothèques publiques des départments, I [Paris, 1849], 739-811), which preserves (II, 8; fol. 96r, col. 1; ed. cit., p. 789) a rule, "De confectione dorature," which probably represents the sort of compound which Cennino knew under this name:

"Doratura is made in this way. Take hepatic aloes, one ounce; linseed oil, two pounds; a little saffron; and boil them all up in a pot until the aloes are well dissolved; then strain them through a cloth into another dish, and vermeil (deaura) thinly with your hand two or three times with this doratura; and gold will be improved, and tin most of all, and silver. But that color is applied only once, thinly, over gold."

(For the composition and use of a similar preparation in the eighteenth century, see articles "Vermeil" and "Vermeillionner" in Sieur Watin, L'art du peintre, doreur, vernisseur . . . [2d ed., Paris, 1773], pp. 144, 159. It is recommended to "reléver l'éclat de l'or et lui donner un plus beau lustre," as in the rule just quoted.)

A similar rule in the same chapter of the Liber diversarum artium may be noted, though it is not specifically labeled doratura. Fol. 98r, col. 2 (ed. cit., p. 798), II, 5, states that "cum doratura pictorum potest vas stagneum deaurari."

Instances might be multiplied, but the above should suffice to demonstrate the justice of translating doratura as "vermeil," and stagno dorato as "golden tin."


96. Sc., "fastened to one beam."

97. See n. 5, p. 21, above.

98. Cf. Othloh, Liber de Temptatione . . ., in Pertz, Monumenta germaniae historiae scriptorum, XI, 392: ". . . raro nisi in festivis diebus aut in aliis horis incompetentibus ab hoc opere cessaret."

99. We can only guess at the words omitted here: perhaps "the necessary adhesive materials" might be supplied.

100. Meglio da difendersi dall'aqua. Lady Herringham follows Mrs. Merrifield in translating, "better able to keep out the water." The commoner function of a glass dish, as I conceive it, is to keep the water in!

101. We may supply "you must put it on the fire," or something of that sort; or possibly the whole sentence should be recast: A struggierla e buna. E perfettisima . . .: and translated, "It is good if you dissolve it. It is the best thing for mending . . . ."

For similar and fuller instructions see Rockinger, art. cit. p. 4 supra, 1te Abt., 27; and among many others, the parallel account in the De arte illuminandi, 15 (ed. A. Lecoy de La Marche, p. 95).


102. Torna men che per mezzo. See note on p. 58, above.

103. Finished parchment represents only a fairly small proportion of the total area of the skin from which it is made. This rule utilizes the waste produced by trimming out the rectangular sheets of parchment from the skin, as the next one, Chapter CXI, employs the scrapings taken off by the parchment maker's knife. Mrs. Merrifield translates colli as "shavings"; Lady Herringham amends this to "waste"; I see no reason to avoid the literal translation, "necks."

104. Chettorni per terzo. See note on p. 58, above.

105. Or "light colored" (chiarissima).

106. "Lean" (magra), and "rather fat" (grassetta), are literal translations which require a word of comment here. The pure gelatine which results from the present rule has practically no adhesive properties, such as glue made as directed in Chapter CVIIII possesses. That more tenacious and adhesive size may be described as "fatter," more substantial, more full bodied; and the present one as "lean" in contrast.

107. For MSS quarta, I, 66, I. 19, read quinta. The fourth section ends with Chapter CIII, p. 64, above.

108. The original is ambiguous here. I understand it to mean: "Add half as much water as you have size," as Cennino's rules usually call for a total of three "parts." The point has little practical significance in this case.

109. Giesso grosso, cioe Volteriano: That is, "coarse plaster, of Volterra." Perhaps Cennino's plaster was no more Volteriano than ours is Parisian!

110. The phrase, che e purghato, may be introduced in L through error, or through confusion by the scribe of gesso grosso with gesso sottile, anticipating the directions of Chapter CXVI. R gives quite a different reading: ". . . gesso grosso . . . which is purified like flour; and, when sifted, put a little porringerful . . . ."

It might be argued that purgare actually means "to slake," and that the gesso grosso was intended to be slaked in some way less than the gesso sottile. This, however, seems to me as improbable in theory as I know it to be unnecessary, and even undesirable, in practice.


111. Raffietti: These are made nowadays in Italy under the name of raschiaii. The so-called "plaster tools" of the sculptors, made of bronze or steel, may be pressed into service, but a set of raschiaii, with blades shaped to meet the requirements of moldings, carvings, pastiglia, etc., mounted at right angles to shafts and handles of convenient shape, will lighten and expedite the work enormously. The modern practice of "drawing up" the gesso as it is applied, with cut pumice templets, and smoothing off after the gesso is dry with the same templets and water, produces a rather mechanical perfection, and is not applicable to carved ornaments.

112. Modeling executed on the gesso surface with gesso applied with a brush is now generally called pastiglia. (See Chapter CXXIIII, p. 76, below.) The addition of a little coloring matter makes it easier to see the effect of the work as it progresses. The modern trade equivalent for "Armenian bole" is "Gilders' Red Clay," or "Red Burnish Gold-Size."

113. Raffietto. See n. 3, p. 71, above.

114. In editing the Italian text, I, 73, l. 13, I indicated my belief that a lacuna exists here. By re-punctuating the text to read, loc. cit., ll. 13-15: ". . . presso di bene, (e sappi, . . . vergongnia), staendo la figura bene . . ." it may be construed as complete, though awkward, as I have translated it here.

115. See Chapter CXVIIII, p. 73, above.

116. See n. 6, p. 88, below.

117. R has cera, "wax." See notes on pp. 129 and 130, below.

118. Olio de bruciare: a vegetable oil, probably olive oil, of inferior quality.

119. Ellavorala frescha e seccha. That is, in fresco and in secco.

120. See n. 1, p. 73, above.

121. See n. 3, p. 71, above.

122. That is, a stone burnisher with a curved point. (See n. 2, p. 25, above.) This operation--burnishing directly on the bole ground--wears out the burnisher, so Cennino hesitates to advise it.

123. Tanto chella paletta della charta non si bangni. A paletta is literally a "little shovel"; here, the "tip" of the card formed by trimming off its corners. This method is not suitable for handling the ordinary gold leaf of modern commerce. The thin modern leaf is best applied with a "gilder's tip," a flat thin brush made of long hairs mounted between cards. This is called regularly in French, and not uncommonly in English, a "palette." It may be noted that the cards in which the hairs are mounted almost invariably have their back corners trimmed off, and thus preserve something of the form of Cennino's paletta, though the card itself no longer carries the gold.

124. "Faulting" is the workshop expression used by modern gilders to signify patching up with small pieces of leaf.




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