Wednesday, June 2, 2021


The term sfregazzi is an Italian term used in oil painting to refer to shadows applied as a glaze with the fingers over flesh tones. It is accomplished by gently rubbing shadows over lighter areas. Pictured: Rembrandt self-portrait.
More at Circolo d'Arti / La tecnica di pittura ad olio di Rembrandt


Sam Bleckley said...

Ah! This explains a years-old mystery for me: Years ago on the wikipedia entry for Mona Lisa, someone defined "sfumato" as "smudging with the fingers". I was utterly confused how that had happened -- what about sfumato, or Leonardo's hazy, smooth paintings made someone think fingers were heavily involved?

It makes much more sense that they got their "Italian techniques that start with S" confused!

(This made me go and check what it says today; still not quite right. Now it says "sfumato" means "not drawing outlines". Closer, I guess.

enpleinair said...

I love it James! I've been trying to figure out how to paint a self-portrait. have you ever done one? possible future youtube video?? Thanks for all you do!

Luca said...

Sam, i think that the difference is not in the tool (the finger or a cloth) but in the energy he put in it. "Sfregare" (the verb from which "sfregazzi" originated) is rubbing with some energy, "sfumare" is gently smudging. I suppose the concepts and even the italian words look quite similar and a translation error could have been possible. For example you have to "sfregare" to take away dried paint from a canvas, while you have to "sfumare" to obtain the typical "blurred" look of Leonardo's paintings. But how he actually managed to do it (with a finger, with a cloth or with washes of color or all of them combined) is totally another kind of issue. :D

Sam Bleckley said...

Ah, thanks Luca; that's enlightening.

I was under the impression "sfumare" meant "to vanish" or "to smoke" not "to smudge" -- and was a description soft almost-out-of-focus outcome, not the physical method (knowing what we do about Leonardo, he probably tried 17 different methods, half of them terrible.)