Have you ever felt ignorant and uncultured while attending a museum of fine art? Here are some words you can drop.
“Pasta,” such as spaghetti, lasagna, etc., is named for Italian for paste, and that same paste-word gives us today’s painting-word.
impasto – laying on paint thickly so that it stands out from a surface
Impasto is a key plot point in Daniel Silva’s recent novel Moscow Rules. Protagonist Gabriel Allon is a word-class restorer of Old Master paintings and, on the side, a reluctant agent and assassin for the Israeli government.
. . .“You’re going to sell it to Elena Kharkov.
. . .“Ask a silly question.” she leaned forward and scrutinized the canvas. “Watch your brushwork on the hands, Gabriel. It’s a bit too impasto.”
. . .“My brushwork, as usual, is flawless.
. . .“How foolish of me to suggest otherwise.”
. . .“It was the hands.”
. . .“What about the hands?”
. . .“The brushstrokes were too impasto.”
. . .“Sarah told me the same thing.”
. . .“You should have listened to her.”
Did the book actually say "to impasto"? It is right the second time.
Oops! Thank you, sir! Typo corrected.
Feel free to toss in today’s term when you can’t think of anything else to say about an old oil painting. It is certain to apply, for almost ever such painting displays it. How useful!
craquelure – fine cracks in surface of old paintings
Our two quotes, from the same source as yesterday, use this word in the contexts of restoration and forgery respectively.
. . . “Why are you baking the Cassatt?”
. . .Just then the kitchen timer chimed softly. Gabriel removed the canvas from the oven and allowed it to cool slightly, then laid it faceup on the table. With Sarah watching, he took hold of the canvas at the top and bottom and pulled it firmly over the edge of the table, downward toward the floor. Then he gave the painting a quarter turn and dragged it hard against the edge of the table a second time. He examined the surface for a moment, then, satisfied, held it up for Sarah to see. Earlier that morning, the paint had been smooth and pristine. Now the combination of heat and pressure had left the surface covered by a fine webbing of fissures and cracks.
. . . “Amazing,” she whispered.
. . .“It’s not amazing,” he said. “It’s craquelure.”
The delightful Ms. Kristin Lister, conservationist at the Art Institute of Chicago, has generously provided several conservation terms. All thanks to you, Kristin!
cleavage – separation of paint layers
It’s hard to find a picture, amid the many for another type of “cleavage”! Here’s tenting at bottom right.
You’ve seen cleavage on old house-paint. It may lie flat (blind or flat cleavage) or pop up in a bulge called a blister. And you can easily spot tenting cleavage or tenting on a painting, where the paint lifts up in little tents. Kristen notes, “Often the canvas beneath has shrunk slightly and there is no longer room to set the cleavage down, unless the canvas is stretched lightly.”
What causes cleavage? A source explains, “… the surface layer … completes the drying process relatively quickly. The dry upper paint then retards the process by denying sub-surface layers access to oxygen. The complete drying of thick oil paint may take several years. The unevenness of drying creates stress within the paint structure that can lead to cracking and cleavage where paint peels away from the priming.”
Interesting. Somehow a flat cleavage doesn't occur with the other kind of cleavage.
It must be an oxymoron, then.
This page has some excellent pictures of cleavage, as part of a description of the restoration of a painting.
A conservator can cause visible damage when he/she lines or relines a canvas (adds another layer of canvas behind it, for stronger support).
weave impression (or weave emphasis) – a damage (irreversible?) that frequently occurs with lining. During lining the paint is heated up and softened, and the weave of the canvas can be pressed into the paint, ruining the original texture of the brushwork.
moating – another type of damage during lining. The impasto can be flattened by the process, often pushed down with a moat around it.
From the web-announcement of this restoration (ellipses omitted):
Records show that a conservator in 1967 lined the paintings because they were at risk of flaking. The flat surface of the [lining] pushed out the threads from the back side of the canvas, flattening the topography of the back of the canvas and creating the enhanced weave impression on the front.
Apparently cleavage also has a political meaning, too.
Imagine if you will a toddler with a smudged face. Mother wets her fingers at her mouth, and uses the wet fingers to wipe away the smudge.
Kristin informs me (if I understand her correctly) that professional art-conservators have a euphemism when they use the same solvent. They could hardly admit to it!
aqueous cleaning – when the conservator uses spit to clean grime from a painting
pentimento – a visible trace of the artist’s earlier version, showing through when the upper layers of the paint have become translucent with age. (In effect, the “painting behind the painting”, showing where the artist “changed his mind” and changed his work.)
The figurative usage is much more interesting than the literal one. I’ll give an example of each.
– Washington Post, Apr. 8, 2001
Restorers were guided by the surviving pentimento of the Italianate Garden's symmetrical plantings.
– Boston Globe, Oct. 26, 2000
––– "-ment" as an ordinary noun-making suffix (as in “refinement”), so pedimento means “sorry-ness”?
––– or “ment” meaning “mind” (as in “mental), so that “pedimento” means “sorry mind”?
The dictionaries mention only the former, but I incline to the latter. Does anyone know whether “ment” is a noun-making suffix in Italian?
It certainly is, as it is in all other Romance languages. Perhaps even other Indo-European ones.
inpainting – “filling in” lost or faded areas, with new paint
(overpainting – when the restorer gets carried away and paints on top of original paint passages, instead of just where a piece of paint is missing)
– Daniel Silva, The English Assassin
raked – slanted; oblique; coming in at an angle