Printmaking 2 Part Three: Project ~ A chiaroscuro print pt.1

Choosing a subject:

For this part of the course a focus on the method of chiaroscuro requires choosing an image or painting from the Renaissance period for study. To ‘find a subject containing a figure or figures based on either a Renaissance painting or a photograph you have taken yourself’, I began by visiting my local library. I found three books of interest on the Renaissance period and specific artists within that movement. They were as follows;

  1. Renaissance, by Christopher Masters
  2. Botticelli by Susan Legouix
  3.  Van Eyck The Complete Works by Amanda Simpson

Renaissance by Christopher Masters.







Botticelli by Susan Legouix.









Van Eyck The Complete Works by Amanda Simpson.










I made an initial quick scan through these books for examples of works which had interesting shapes, tonal contrasts and clothing or draperies. I left little page markers on the images that seemed to best fit that description.

You can see these images in the photographs below:

‘Portrait of Giovanni Arnolfini and his Wife (The Arnolfini Portrait), 1434, Jan van Eyck.
London, The National Gallery.
Photograph of p.147, ‘Renaissance’ by Christopher Masters.












I thought ‘The Arnolfini Portrait’ could be an interesting choice given the two central figures, and the drape of their garments particularly the ladies dress. However I am put off by the challenge of converting the rich tones of the painting into three or four tones of varying light/darkness. I felt like there might be other images better suited to this task so onto the next image.


‘Adoration of the Magi’, 1495 , Andrea Mantegna.
Los Angeles, J.Paul Getty Museum.
Photograph of p.198, ‘Renaissance’ by Christopher Masters.











I was slightly taken by the folds of the turbans or head garments in ‘Adoration of the Magi’, they seems to be quite a dominant feature in the painting. But my concern was capturing skin tone with a limited tonal print – this could look really terrible if done badly, and I’m not sure I trust my ability to pull it off.


Detail of: ‘Pieta’, 1498-99, Michelangelo Buonarroti.
Rome, St Peter’s Basilica.
Photograph of p.265, ‘Renaissance’ by Christopher Masters.








I considered ‘Pieta’, even though it’s a sculpture and not a painting because there’s a great sense of flow and movement created by the draping of the garments around the two figures. I also think there’s some interesting tonal areas, however I worry that there’s not really a clear mid-tone for re-creating when printing.


‘Fortitude’ Sandro Botticelli.
Florence, Galleria degli Uffizi.
Photograph of p.35, ‘Botticelli’ by Susan Legouix.











I felt like ‘Fortitude’ was a strong contender, there are some clear light, mid and dark toned areas, created by draperies and the architecture around the central figure. But some of the details are incredibly fine, I worried that this would be too great a challenge to undertake for a first chiaroscuro print.

‘The Ghent Altarpiece’ detail: Sts John the Baptist and John the Evangelist, Jan van Eyck.
Photograph of p.40, ‘Van Eyck The Complete Works’ by Amanda Simpson.











The final piece I looked at is the one I will attempt to make a chiaroscuro print from, its a part of ‘The Ghent Altarpiece’ (see photo above for reference). I think its a painting made to resemble or capture figures sculpted in stone. I like the framing of the two figures, with the darker recesses providing some dark tonal areas, whilst I believe there’s mid and lighter tones in in the figures facial features and draped garments.


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