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impression that the wall is receding back and the group is sitting at the top table in the room. The vanishing point is the face of Jesus. The strong diagonals draw the eye towards the calm figure in the midst of human energy and turbulence. He is alone in the knowledge of his suffering to come (Fig. 22.6).


The open windows in the background show the use of atmospheric perspective.


Experimentation with new fresco techniques


Leonardo was dissatisfied with fresco. It dried too fast and prevented him from using fine detail. He experimented by mixing oil with tempera and by working dry (a secco). This proved to be disastrous, as in less than 20 years the great painting began to disintegrate.


Leonardo’s scientific interests


Leonardo’s reflections on mathematics, geology, the human body and other scientific subjects were recorded in thousands of manuscript pages. He made numerous sketches of anatomy, which were very controversial at the time, but he discovered many features of the human body (Fig. 22.7).


Leonardo the artist


His many interests meant that Leonardo spent less time on painting. There are only 15 paintings and one fresco, but he made significant technical discoveries.


Techniques


Leonardo was a slow, meticulous painter; oil paint allowed him to paint in extremely fine detail.


He broke with the Florentine tradition of outlining the painted image and began by covering his canvas in brown tones. He built up the image in layers of very thin paint or glazes using small brushes. He also used his fingers to smooth and soften the edges while the paint was still wet. This was particularly effective on the edges of faces and helped to make smooth shadows.


Colour


He used only a small natural range and never intense or bold colours. He used just one colour in tonal studies and graded it from very light to dark – almost white to black.


Atmospheric perspective


He studied the effect of rain and dust on colour and distance and was one of the first artists to use atmospheric perspective in Italy.


Fig. 22.7 The babe in the womb page from Leonardo da Vinci’s notes, Royal Library, Windsor Castle, England


CHAPTER 22: A GOLDEN AGE 261


EUROPEAN ART


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