Sunday, 2 October 2011

Research Point - Pentimenti

Mistakes in master drawings are known as pentimenti and the drawings are often more valuable if they contain pentimenti - find out about pentimenti and restatementsand find examples of them in famous drawings. Log your findings.

Wikipedia - 
A pentimento (plural pentimenti) is an alteration in a painting, evidenced by traces of previous work, showing that the artist has changed his mind as to the composition during the process of painting. The word derives from the Italian pentirsi, meaning to repent.

Most information regarding pentimenti is of those discovered in paintings. These pentimenti are usually hidden beneath a subsequent paint layer and are often discovered because this top layer of paint becomes more transparent with time but many are now being seen in paintings since the advent of such methods as x-ray and infra-red which can detect different pigments in the underpainting due to their different chemical compositions.

I couldn't find much about pentimenti in drawings on the net (maybe becasue they are so obvious and common) so I decided to have a look at some drawings myself. I found many small pentimenti in Michelangelo's sketches. His study of Adam shows clearly multiple lines over the top of his left thigh where he has altered the width of his leg. Also there are fainter marks showing his left hand much lower. Whether this is a true pentimento or just another sketch of Adam's hand I'm not sure. In the second study (I'm not sure of the title of this) it is possible to see lines of the models arm slightly to the left of the final drawing where the srtist seems to have repositioned it.

Michelangelo's sketch of The Lamentation over the Dead Christ shows many pentimenti according to the British Museum (they're not all visible looking at the image on the screen). They can be seen in the knees and in the face (the latter are turned more towards the viewer) and they indicate a change of the artist`s viewpoint in relation to the model. There are also marks in black chalk around the hip area which are though to be adjustments by Michelangelo.

The Lamentation over the Dead Christ - Michelangelo
Young Girl in Profile in Renaissance Dress by Da Vinci (although this is a matter of contention) apparently shows numerous pentimenti but annoyingly I haven't been able to find out exactly where these are and as they were detected using infra-red, they aren't visible to the naked eye. Wikipedia have kindly circled a fingerprint in the image below - don't think this is classed as pentimenti but is quite interesting!

Young Girl in Profile in Renaissance Dress - Da Vinci

I also found a great pentimento surfing for more Leonardo drawings. I'm not sure what the title of this study is but it's really obvious how the artist has completely changed the position of the sitter's hands and lifted the right hand much higher instead of clasped together.

Below are some paintings with pentimento are below. The portrait of Jacques de Norvins by Ingres was
painted in 1811–12. The sitter was at that time Napoleon's Chief of Police in Rome and the painting originally was thought to have the bust of Napoleon's son on the left of the sitter. The bust has been painted out and covered by the curtain on the left but it is still possible to see the bust, it's chin level with the sitters head. Because of the reason for the change, it could be argued that this change is not pentimenti however.

Jacques de Norvins by Ingres
 In Caravaggio's, The Cardsharps there are a number of small changes which were revealed with infra-red reflectograms. They show that the artist changed the position of the figure on the right. Caravaggio was known to have composed his paintings straight onto the canvas without the aid of preliminary drawings. Such artists tend to have more pentiment in their paintings due to this.
The Cardsharps by Caravaggio
One of the most famous examples is a double hat brim in Rembrandt's "Flora". I think this is the right picture below but there are several versions of Flora. It is possible to see a darker area which is possibly the change to make the hat much smaller.

Rembrandt - Flora

1 comment:

Emilio said...

That's amazing!!!
I did not know that you studied such interesting things!! Great work!
I hope I can see more soon!!

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