Disegno vs. Colorito

There were two different methods of painting production that were popular in Renaissance Italy. The two areas of these methods wereFlorenceandVenice.

Image Credit to the British Museum.

The Florentine style was focused on the design of a work, called disegno. Artists would work first on separate paper or parchment to perfect their design before moving onto the canvas. Design was vital and drawing was the most important element to perfect the design. This idea started long before the High Renaissance because “the notion that drawing serves as a foundation for the arts of painting and sculpture had been expressed at least as early as Petrarch.”[i] Disegno was more than just for the perfection in painting but it was the staple for all areas of art in the Renaissance. InVenice, however, design was not the area of style that focused on the most. It was color and the application of color that was important when creating nature on canvas.

Image Credit to ARTstor.

Colorito in Italian is a verb meaning “coloring” or the application of color and the process of painting. The Venetian’s would draw directly on the canvas and create and change their design while painting. The artist “drew on the canvas with charcoal and paint rather than using the complicated drawing process” of the Florentines.[ii] Venetians believed that coloring was the closest aspect to nature above all other parts of painting. It was not disegno or “the muscular energy or movement of the figure…but the coloring – colorito – in all its variety and its blending is source of animation, of the pulse of life and likeness, in Venetian eyes.”[iii]

The Venetians did produce drawings on paper but not as many as the Florentines, because they worked directly on the canvas. This method of work is what separates the two schools of Italian painting. Where the Florentines were planning and perfecting their design on paper, the Venetians were drawing directly on the canvas. They would remodel their work while painting their work, thus focusing on the brushwork and color that they were applying right onto the canvas. Titian was using an “empirical method, working his way through the design as it laid out on the primed canvas” which was a process he produced “slowly and carefully, always adjusting his forms and paint to achieve a premeditated effect and often strikingly original results.”[iv]

[i] Robert Williams, Art, Theory, and Culture in Sixteenth-Century Italy, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 16.

[ii] Bruce Cole, Titian and Venetian Paintings: 1450-1590, (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1999), 70.

[iii]PaulHills, Venetian Colour: Marble, Mosaic, Painting and Glass 1250-1550, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), 216.

[iv] Cole, 70.


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