Cennino cennino's treatise on painting, part the first
Chap. 1 . Here begins the book on the art, made and composed by Cennino da Colle, in the reverence of God, and of the Virgin Mary, and of St. JEustachius, and of St. Francis, and of St. John the Baptist, and of St. Anthony of Padua, and generally of all the Saints of God, and in the reverence of Giotto, of Taddeo, and of Agnolo the master of Cennino, and for the utility and good and advantage of those who would attain perfection in the arts.
In the beginning the omnipotent God created the heaven and the earth, and, above all, animals and food ; he created man and woman after his own image, endowing them with all the virtues. But Adam was tempted, and fell through the envy of Lucifer, who, with malice and subtlety, induced him to sin against the commandment of God (first Eve sinned, and then Adam) ; and God was displeased with Adam, and caused him and his companion to be driven by an angel out of paradise, saying to them, " Because you have disobeyed the commandment which God gave to you, by your labour and exertions shall you support yourselves." Then Adam, knowing the sin he had committed, and being nobly endowed by God as the root and father of us all, discovered, by his
wisdom and his necessities, how to live by his own manual exertions. And thus he began by digging, and Eve by spinning. Then followed many necessary arts, different each from the other, and each more scientific than the other ; for they could not all be equally so. Now, the most worthy is Science ; after which comes an art derived from science, and dependent on the operations of the hand, and this is called Painting, for which we must be endowed with imagination and skill, to discover things (concealed under the shade of nature), and form with the hand, and present to the sight, that which did not before appear to exist. And well does it deserve to be placed in the rank next to science, and to be crowned by Poetry : and for this reason, that the poet, by the help of science, becomes worthy, and free, and able, to compose and bind together or not at pleasure. So to the painter liberty is given to compose a figure, either upright or sitting, or half man half horse, as he pleases, according to his fancy. I have therefore undertaken to adorn this principal science with some jewels, for the benefit of all those persons who feel inclined to learn the various methods, and who worthily and without bashfulness set themselves about it ; devoting to the before-mentioned science what little knowledge God has given me, as an unworthy member and servant of the art of painting.
I Cennino, son of Andrea Cennini, born in the Colle di Valdelsa, was instructed in these arts for twelve years by Agnolo son of Taddeo of Florence, my master, who learned the art from Taddeo his father, the godson of Giotto, whose disciple he had been for twenty-four years. This Giotto introduced the Greek manner of painting among the Latins, and united it to the modern school, and the art became more perfect than it had ever been (1). In order to assist all those who are desirous of acquiring this art, I shall make notes of all that was taught me by my master Agnolo (2), and which I have proved with my own hand ; invoking first the high omnipotent God, - that is to say, the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit ; secondly, that most delightful advocate of all sinners, the
Virgin Mary, and St. Luke the Evangelist, the first Christian painter, and my advocate St. Eustachius, and generally all the saints, male and female, of paradise. Amen (3).
Chap. 2. How some persons study the arts from nobleness of mind, and some for gain. It is the stimulus of a noble mind which induces persons to study these arts, made pleasing to them by the love of nature. The intellect delights in invention ; and it is nature alone, and the impulse of a great mind, which attracts them, without the guidance of a master. The delight they take in these studies induces them to seek a master, and they gladly dispose themselves to obey him, being in servitude, that they may carry their art to perfection. There are some who follow the arts from poverty and necessity ; but those who pursue them from love of the art and true nobleness of mind are to be commended above all others.
Chap. 3. What things are necessary in the pursuit of the arts. Now then, you who, possessing noble minds, are lovers of this accomplishment, and who study the arts in general, adorn yourselves first with this vesture, â€” namely, love, reverence, obedience, and perseverance. And, according to my ability, I shall begin to put you under the direction of a master, to learn as much as in the following pages I can impart to you of what my master taught me.
Chap. 4. Into what parts and members the arts are divided.
I begin with drawing and colouring, which are the foundation of all the arts, and of all the labours of the hand. To these two parts many things are necessary ; namely, to know how to grind colours (1) ; to use glue (2) ; to fasten the cloth on the panel (3) ; to prime with chalk (4) ; to smooth the surface of the ground of the picture (5), and polish it; to make relievos in plaster (gesso) (6) ; to use bole ; to gild (7) ; to burnish ; to temper colours (8) ; to lay on flat colours (9) ; to powder a drawing (10); to scrape (11); to engrave gilding (12) ; to rule lines; to colour; to adorn and to varnish pictures (13). To paint on walls, it is necessary to wet them ; to cover them with mortar (14) ; to embellish them; to polish them ; to design, to colour in fresco and in secco ; to temper the colours ; adorn and retouch. And I will set forth progressively, according to the little knowledge I have acquired, the rules of the great masters before mentioned relative to these different matters.
Chap. 5. In what manner drawings on panels should be begun.
A.s I have before said, you must begin by drawing. It is necessary that you should be accustomed to draw very correctly. In the first place, you must have a panel of box-wood, the size of which should be on every side the length of the hand closed, with the thumb extended (1 ), well smoothed and clean, â€” that is to say, washed with clean water, rubbed and polished with seppia (bone of the cuttle-fish), which the goldsmiths use for marking. When the above-mentioned panel is quite dry, take a sufficient quantity of bones, well pulverised for two hours, and the finer they are ground the better they will be. Then collect the powder, and put it into dry paper ; and when you would prime the panel (ingessare), take less than half the size of a bean of this bone-dust, mix it up with saliva, and before it is dry spread it with the finger over the surface of the panel. Hold the panel in the left hand ; and, with the end of the fore-finger (Â£) of the right hand, beat upon the panel until you see that it is quite dry, and that the bone-dust is spread all over it equally.
Chap. 6. Of other panels on which designs are executed (1). Instead of these panels, the wood of the fig-tree, well seasoned, is sometimes used; also certain tablets used by merchants, which are made of parchment, primed with chalk, mixed with white lead and oil (2), using the bone-dust as before mentioned.
Chap. 7. What kind of bones are proper for priming pictures. You must now know what bones are proper. For this purpose take the bones of the ribs and wings of fowls or capons ; and the older they are the better. When you find them under the table (1), put them into the fire, and when you see they are become whiter than ashes, take them out, and grind them well on a porphyry slab (which I shall hereafter mention), and keep the powder for use.
Chap. 8. In what manner you should begin to draw with a stile, and with what light.
The bones also of the leg and shoulder of mutton are good, burnt as before directed. Then take a stile of silver, or brass with a silver point, sufficiently fine and polished. Then, to acquile command of hand in using the stile, begin to draw with it from a copy as freely as yon can, and so lightly that you can scarcely see what you have begun to do, deepening your strokes as you proceed, and going over them repeatedly, to make the shadows. Where you would make it darkest, go over it many times ; and, on the contrary, make but few touches on the lights. And you must be guided by the light of the sun, and your eye, and your hand ; and without these three things you can do nothing properly. Contrive always when you draw that the light be softened, and the sun strike on your left hand; and in this manner you should draw a short time every day, that you may not become tired or weary.
Chap. 9. How to arrange or accommodate yourself to the light, so as to produce the chiaro-scuro, and give proper relief to your figure.
If by accident it should happen, that when designing or drawing in chapels, or colouring in other unfavourable places, you cannot have the light on your left hand, or in your usual manner, or give relief to your figures, or design correctly, on account of the arrangement of the windows in these places, from which you are to receive the light, â€” you must accommodate yourself to the light on which side soever it may be, and give the proper lights and shadows. Or if the light should enter or shine full in your face, make your lights and shades accordingly ; or if the light enter at a window larger than the others in the above-mentioned places, adopt always the best 'ight, and, with due consideration, accommodate your painting to it ; because, wanting this, your work will be without relief, inskilfully executed, and of little value.
Chap. 10. The manner of drawing on parchment and on paper, and how to shade with water-colours.
Let us return to our subject. You may also draw upon parchment, and paper (1) made of cotton. On parchment you may draw with the stile (2), first rubbing and spreading some of the powdered bone-dust in a dry state, or some of the Tarnish used by writers (3), with a hare's foot, over the parchment. When you have completed your drawing with the stile, in order to make it clearer, you may, if you please, fix the outlines and necessary touches with water (about as much as a nut-shell will hold), into which are put two drops of ink (4), and shade with a brush made of hairs cut from the tail of the minever. And thus you must blacken the water with a few drops of ink, according to the shades required. In the same manner you may shade with colours and red tints
(pezzuole) (5), such as miniature-painters use; mix your colours with gum, or the white of an egg well beaten and liquefied.
Chap. 11. How to draw with a teaden stile.
It is possible also to draw on parchment without bone-dust with a stile of lead ; that is, with two parts lead and one of tin, well beaten with a hammer.
Chap. 12. How, when drawing with a lead pencil, an error may be corrected.
You may draw on paper also with the above-mentioned leaden stile, either with or without bone-dust ; and if at any time you make an error, or you wish to remove any marks made by the leaden stile, take a piece of crumb of bread, rub it over the paper, and efface whatever you please. And in the same manner you may shade with ink, or colours, or red tints, with the before-mentioned vehicle.
Chap. 13. How drawings with the pen should be practised.
When you have practised drawing in this manner one year, either more or less, according to the pleasure you take in it, you may sometimes draw on paper with a well-made pen. Draw lightly, leaving your lights and your half-lights and your shades gradually, and going over the latter many times with your pen(l). And if you would have your drawing very beautiful, use a little water-colour, as before directed, with a hair-pencil. Do you know what will be the consequence of this practice of drawing with the pen? It will make you expert, skilful, and capable of making original designs.
Chap. 14. How to make a pen for the purpose of drawing.
If you would know how to make a pen of a goose-quill, take a firm quill, place it on the two fingers of the left hand, the under side of the quill upwards ; take a sharp penknife, and cut away about the width of a finger from the length of the quill ; then cut away the left side of the pen towards you, scrape it, make it thin towards the point, cut away the other side, and let it slope in the same degree to a point. Turn the pen over, put it on the thumb-nail of the left hand, and gently scrape and nib the point, and make it either broad or fine as you require for drawing or writing.
Chap. 15. How to draw on tinted paper.
In order to proceed gradually and begin at the very beginning, and, as it were, the threshold of colouring, you must learn another method of drawing besides those of which we have previously been speaking; and this is called, drawing on tinted paper - either on parchment or paper. The term "tinted" is used because the whole surface of the paper is coloured with the same tint. The tints may be either red, purple, green, azure, grey, flesh-colour, or any colour you please; they all require the same tempering and grinding, and may all be drawn upon in the same manner. It is true that green tints are the most beautiful and most frequently used, both in shading and in the lights. I shall hereafter treat of grinding the colours, of their several natures, and of the medium (tempera) they require. I must be brief upon this subject, being desirous of instructing you in drawing and tinting paper.
Chap. 16. How parchment or paper is tinted green, and how the tints are tempered.
To tint parchment or sheets of paper green, take about the size of half a walnut of verde terra, and half the quantity of ochre; of good white lead (biacca), half the quantity of the ochre, and about the size of a bean of bone-dust (which I have taught you previously to prepare), and half the size of a bean of vermilion. Grind all these well together on a porphyry slab, with water from a well, or spring, or river : grind them as long as you possibly can - you cannot grind them too much ; and the more you grind your colours, the better will they be. Then temper these ingredients with glue (colla), of the following kind and strength : Take a piece of glue as sold by the apothecaries (not fish-glue), and put it into a pipkin to soak, in as much clean water as can be contained in two common drinking-glasses, for the space of six hours ; then put the pipkin on the fire, and skim it when it boils. When it has boiled a short time, and the glue is perfectly dissolved, strain it twice ; then take a painter's vase, large enough to contain the colours you have ground, and add the glue to them till the colours flow well with the pencil. Then with a pencil of hog's bristles, rather large and soft, spread the colour immediately over the paper to be tinted with a light touchy and the pencil almost dry, till you see that the whole surface of the paper is tinted. Let it dry before you go over it again ; and if you see the tints look dry, or grow too hard, it is a proof that the glue is too strong ; therefore, when you have gone over it the first time, you must remedy it by adding warm water to it. When finished and quite dry, take a knife and rub it lightly over the paper, removing all the inequalities.
Chap. 17. How to tint parchment and to burnish it.
To draw on parchment, you must first soak it in spring or well water till it become soft. Fasten it tight with small nails, over a plank, as you would stretch the parchment over a drum, and tint it as before directed. Should it happen that the parchment or paper is not smooth enough for the purpose, put it on a plank of walnut-tree wood, or on an even and well-polished stone. Then put a very clean sheet of paper upon that which you have tinted; and with the stone with which you burnish gold, burnish it firmly with the hand, and by this means you will make it very soft and smooth. True it is that some persons like to burnish on the tinted card itself, so that the burnishing-stone should touch its surface, and give it a little lustre : do which you please, but the first mode is the best The reason is, that the lustre given to the tinted paper, by rubbing it with the burnishing-stone, takes away the lustre of the stile in drawing ; and besides, the water-colour, when applied, does not look as clear as when the first process is used. Sit nihil hominibus (1) ; do as you please.
Chap. 18. How to tint paper of a morello or purple colour.
Now learn how to make these tints. To tint paper morello or purple colour, take, for the number of sheets I have mentioned above (1), half an ounce of white lead and the size of a bean of lapis amatisto (2), and grind them as well together as you can ; they cannot be spoilt by too much grinding, but, on the contrary, will be improved. Temper the colour as before.
Chap. 19. How to tint paper with indigo.
For the above-mentioned number of sheets take half an ounce of white lead (biacca), and the size of two beans of Indaco maccabeo (1), and grind them well together; you cannot spoil them by too much grinding. Temper, and use in the same manner as before.
Chap. 20. To tint paper a peach-colour.
If you would tint your paper of a peach-colour, for the same number of sheets take half an ounce of verde terra, the size of a bean of white lead, and the size of a bean of light sinopia. Grind them in the usual manner, and temper with your size.
Chap. 21. To tint paper of a flesh-colour.
To make a good flesh-coloured tint, take for the same number of sheets of paper half an ounce of white-lead, and less than the size of a bean of vermilion : grind and mix well together. Temper in the usual manner.
Chap. 22. To make grey tints on paper.
Grey tints are made in this manner. Take a quarter (1) of white lead, the size of a bean of light ochre, less than half the size of a bean of black ; grind these well together in the usual manner. Temper as I have before directed, putting always to each the size of a bean at least of burnt bones. And these directions are sufficient to enable you to proportion the tints properly.
Chap. 23. In what manner you may make a good drawing on transparent paper (carta lucida). You must know there is still another kind of paper, called transparent, which may be very useful to you in copying a head, or a figure, or a half-length figure, from the work of a great master. If you wish to have a correct outline, or if you see any picture of which you wish to take a copy for yourself, put the transparent paper over the figure or design, fastening it lightly at each corner with a piece of red or green wax. The figure or design will be immediately visible through the transparent paper, so that you can see it clearly. Then take either a pen with a fine nib, or a small air-pencil, and with ink trace the outlines and extremities of the design under it, touching in lightly every shade that you can see and draw. Then taking away the paper, you may touch the lights and relievos in the manner I have before described.
Chap. 24. The first mode of making transparent paper.
If you cannot find any of this transparent paper ready made, make it in the following manner. Take a skin of parchment, give it to a parchment-maker, and let him scrape it very thin and evenly. It is of itself transparent. If you would have it more clear, take linseed-oil, very clear and fine, and rub it over with a piece of cotton dipped in this oil ; let it dry for the space of many days, and it will be perfect and good.
Chap. 25. The second mode of making transparent paper, with glue.
If you would prepare this transparent paper in another manner, provide a slab of marble or porphyry. Then take fish-glue and pieces of glue sold by the apothecaries: put them to soften in clean water ; and to six pieces put a porringer-full of clean water. Then make it boil ; and when boiled, strain it two or three times. Then take some of this dissolved and strained glue, and when cool, with a brush (as in tinting paper) pass all over the clean slab. The stone should be first greased with olive oil; and when the glue upon the slab is dry, take the point of a knife and begin to loosen the glue from the slab with your hand : take off as much as you can of this kind of skin or paper. With great care you may detach this glue safely from the stone, like a sheet of paper. Or if you prefer it, before you detach this skin of glue from the stone, take linseed oil, boiled in the manner I shall direct when speaking of mordants, and with a soft pencil go once over it : let it dry for two or three days, and it will be very transparent.
Chap. 26. How paper may be made transparent.
Paper may also be made transparent. The paper must be thin, even, and very white ; oil it with linseed-oil, as before directed. It will be transparent, and very good.
Chap. 27. Shewing how you should endeavour to draw and instruct yourself in design as much cu you can.
It is now requisite that you should copy from models, in order to attain the highest branches of the science. You have made tinted cards. It is necessary for you to adopt this mode. Having practised drawing a sufficient time on tablets, as I have before directed, always study and delight in drawing the best subjects which offer from the works of the great masters. If there are many good masters in the place where you live, so much the better for you. But I advise you always to select the best and most celebrated ; and if you daily imitate his manner, it is scarcely possible but that you will acquire it ; for if you copy to-day from this master and to-morrow from that, you will not acquire the manner of either ; and as the different style of each master unsettles your mind, your own manner will become fantastic. If you will study this manner to-day and that to-morrow, you must of necessity copy neither perfectly ; but if you continually adopt the manner of one master, your intellect must be very dull indeed if you do not find something to nourish it, And it will happen that if nature has bestowed on you any invention, you will acquire a manner of your own, which cannot be other than good, because your hand and your understanding being always accustomed to gather the flowers, will always avoid the thorns (1).
Chap. 28. How you should draw continually from nature, as well as from the masters.
Remember that the most perfect guide that you can have and the best direction is to draw from nature : it is the best of all possible examples, and with a bold heart you may always trust to it, especially when you begin to have some knowledge of design. And continuing always and without fail to draw something every day, how little soever it may be, you will certainly attain excellence.
Chap. 29. How you should regulate your manner of living so as to preserve decorum, and keep your hand in proper condition, and what company you should frequent ; and how you should select and draw a figure in relief.
Your manner of living should be always regulated as if you were studying theology, philosophy, or any other science ; that is to say, eating and drinking temperately - at the most twice a day, using light and good food, and but little wine ; keeping in good condition, and restraining your hand, preserving it from fatigue, throwing stones or iron bars for instance, and many other things which are injurious to the hand, causing it to shake. There is still another cause, the occurrence of which may render your hand so unsteady that it will oscillate and tremble more than leaves shaken by the wind, and this is, frequenting too much the company of ladies. - Let us return from our digression. Make a pocket of sheets of paper glued together, or of light wood, fit to hold any picture or paper, and this will hold your drawings, and also serve for a desk to draw upon. Then always retire alone (1), or with companions who are doing as you do, and who will not hinder your work ; and the more intellectual these companions are, the better will it be for you. Whether it be in churches or chapels that you begin to draw, consider first what space, or history, or figures, you wish to sketch, and remark where the shades, middle tints, and lights fall ; and I must tell you here to shade with ink and water, to leave the ground of the panel
for the middle tints, and to use white for the lights.
Chap. 30. In what manner you should begin to draw on paper with charcoal, and proportion the figure, and fix your drawing with a silver stile.
Procure some fine charcoal, cut to a point, like a pen or a stile, and the first measure that you take in drawing let it be one of the three parts into which the face is divided, namely, the head, the face, and the chin (1), with the mouth. And, taking one of these three parts for a guide, proportion the whole figure by it, endeavouring to understand and be governed by these measures; and this is done, because the historical painting, or the figure you copy, may be of large dimensions, and you may be unable to reach with the hand to measure it. You must make use of your understanding, and in this way truth will be your conductor. If you have not proportioned your drawing exactly by the first touches, take a feather, either of a hen or a goose, and, with the feather-part of it, rub and clean away the charcoal from what you have drawn, and the design will be effaced. Begin again from that part the proportions of which appear to agree with the original; and when you see that it is correct, take the silver stile, and retrace the outlines and extremities of your design, and the depths of shade. When you have done this, with the feather-part of the pen remove the charcoal, and your drawing will be fixed by the stile.
Chap. 31. How to draw and shade on tinted paper in water-colours, and heighten the lights with white.
When you have sufficiently practised shading, take a hairpencil without a point (1), and with water and ink, in a small vase, wash over the principal shades, and proceed to deepen them properly. If you find your tint too light, and if your pencil become as it were almost dry, yet be not in haste ; you will learn to shade by degrees by always returning with your pencil to the darkest parts. Do you know what will happen from this proceeding ? If the water have but little colour, and you take pleasure in shading, and do not hurry yourself, your shades will at last appear soft, like smoke. Always remember to keep the pencil flat. When you can shade well, take a drop or two of ink, add it to the water, and stir it well ; and then in the same manner fill in the darker shades to their utmost depths â€” always remembering, while shading, your three divisions, the first consists of the shades, the second of the colour of the ground, and the third of the lights. When you have done this, take a little white lead, well triturated with gum-arabic (hereafter I shall treat of the manner in which this gum should be tempered and dissolved (2), and I shall also treat of all kinds of vehicles) ; a very little white will be sufficient. Put some clean water in a little vase ; dip your pencil into it, and rub it on the prepared white lead, particularly if it be of good body ; then hold the paint by your thumb and finger, and, squeezing the pencil, discharge the colour from it, so that you leave it almost dry. Begin by washing the pencil flat over those places where there ought to be lights and relievos, and go many times over them, but with discretion ; then, for the extreme relievos and high lights, take a pointed pencil, and touch them with the point of the pencil dipped in white. Take a small pencil, and with ink clear up the extreme shades and outlines, noses, eyes, hair, and beard.
Chap. 32. How you may put on the lights with water and white lead, as well as shade with water and ink.
I advise also, when you have had more practice, that you endeavour to lay on the lights with water-colour as you did ink with water. Take white lead ground with water, and temper it with the yolk of an egg, and spread it on your drawing as you did the ink and water; but it is more difficult, and requires practice. Both methods are called drawing on tinted paper, and they will lead to the art of colouring.
Practise what you have been taught as frequently as you can; attend closely and with great diligence, delight, and pleasure, to these studies.
Chap. 33. In what manner good and fine charcoal crayons may be made.
Before we proceed further, I will teach you how to make crayons of charcoal. Take some slips of willow, dry and smooth, and cut them into pieces as long as the palm of the hand, or the little finger; then divide them like matches, and fasten them together like a bundle of matches ; but first polish and sharpen them on each side as if they were tin. Then, laying them side by side, bind them altogether in three places, that is, by the middle and by each end, with a copper or iron wire ; then take a new pipkin, and fill the pipkin with them ; put on an earthen cover, and lute it round with chalk or clay, so that no air can enter; and put the pipkin into a cool oven, that is, into one from which the bread has just been removed, and let it remain till morning ; then look whether the crayons are well burnt and black. If they are not black enough, let them remain till they are so. Then to ascertain whether they are properly made, you should take one of the crayons, and draw with it, either on paper, or tinted paper, or on a panel. If the crayon works freely, it will do; if it be too much baked, it will not hold on the paper, but will split to pieces. I will tell you another way of making these crayons. Take a small baking-pan, covered as above mentioned ; put it at night on the hot hearth, and cover it well with ashes, and go to bed. In the morning the crayons will be done. And in the same manner you may make small or large crayons as you please ; and there are no better crayons in the world.
Chap. 34. Of a stone for drawing, which is of the nature of charcoal.
I have found that a certain black stone brought from Piedmont is good for drawing; sharpen it with a knife, it is soft, and very black, and it will be as good as charcoal. Draw with it what you please (1).