A Lesson in Glazing by Vermeer in "The Allegory of Painting"


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The Allegory of Painting

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Vermeer demonstrated one his own glazing techniques used for making a deep natural green which cannot be found in a single pigment. In "The Art of Painting" we observe the artist in the act of portraying a young girl holding a trumpet and a book. On her head is a laurel wreath and as we would naturally expect, the wreath is green. But let us have a look at the canvas which the artist is beginning to paint. In a good reproduction we can discern a tentative white outline of the bust and the leaves of the wreath painted near the top of the canvas. But they are, surprisingly enough, blue. Have we caught the master off guard? No. He is, in reality, revealing one of his own glazing methods. What we see on the canvas is the underpainting. Afterwards, the blue leaves would be glazed with a yellow lake, perhaps weld, to produce the deep green Vermeer desired.

If we if we carefully observe the foliage in "The Little Street in Delft" we notice that it has a strong bluish tone. Again, we are really seeing  the underpainting. The yellow  lake glaze either has faded in time or has been destroyed by an over zealous restoration. Vermeer often used this glaze in various draperies within his paintings.

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The Little Street in Delft


The bluish underpainting reappears in the vegetation (right) after the yellow lake glaze has probably faded.

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detail of vegetation


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copyrightę 2001-2006 jonathan janson

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