Giampietrino , copy of “ The Last Supper ” 1520
Assisi , from 1279 , is now a negative of its former self . Only a small range of colors were available to the fresco painter . His brushes , too , had to be tough hog-bristle brushes , because the delicate squirrel-hair brushes favored by easel painters were no match for the resistant plaster wall .
Like most painters today , the Renaissance master began with many small sketches . Before the 15th century , fresco painters would begin by drawing a layout of the design on the dry wall . The client could suggest changes at that point , or the artist himself could change his mind here and there . Later artists used the spolvero method . They would draw a full-size layout of the giornata on a large sheet of paper called a cartone , or “ big chart ” ( we
“ Portrait of a Young Woman ” Pompeii , circa 50 C . E .
get our word cartoon from cartone , although cartone were rarely funny ). Hard-working assistants would perforate the lines , nail the cartone to the appropriate place on the wall , and “ pounce ” the holes by dabbing lampblack over them with a sponge .
After they took the cartone down , what was left was a connect-the-dots configuration that gave the artist an adequate idea of where the original lines were . He could then proceed with the painting .
The finest fresco artists could create a masterpiece within the tight time
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