Sfumato technique in painting: features, examples

Sfumato in painting is a unique technique,invented by the genius of Leonardo da Vinci. Until now, it causes delight among the audience and professional admiration of artists. Let's talk about the features of this manner of writing, who used it and where today you can look at the masterpieces of sfumato.

sfumato in painting

Meaning of the word

The Italian word "sfumato" literally means"Disappearing like smoke." In the Renaissance this term was used by painters, implying a special shaded image under it. Later this term began to be used for the name of a special technology for the transmission of halftones.

Technical features

It is believed that Leonardo da Vinci, whomconsider the ancestor of sfumato, generalized and perfected the methods of transmission of halftones that existed during the Italian Renaissance. The technique is to apply the finest, translucent layers that do not overlap each other, but only darken or lighten the fragments of the canvas. Thin glazes of minimal color difference make it possible to create a sensation of haze, fog. Sfumato in the painting of Leonardo da Vinci was brought to perfection. Modern studies show that it could apply layers of only 3-4 microns in thickness. Sfumato techniques are used to isolate the compositional center. Blurred outlines make it possible to more clearly and effectively emphasize the most important object on the canvas. Half-tones gradually shift into a dense shadow, not creating visible borders of transitions.

The classical sfumato is created with the help ofspecial translucent paints, glazes. To work, artists use light sable brushes that allow you to make almost invisible strokes. Later, the technique of "dry brush" appeared, when, through the main pictorial canvas, the artist went through the lightest strokes with a small amount of a dry coloring mixture. And after a complete drying of the image, he still erased the surplus to leave a literally microscopic layer.

Leonardo da Vinci reception in painting sfumato

Distinctive features of sfumato

To see all the charm of sfumato in painting, you cancanvases by Leonardo da Vinci. The background on his canvases is devoid of clarity, pronounced lines and smears. Smokey and blurry background allows you to concentrate the viewer's attention on the main object of the picture. In this soft background gives the product of atmospheric and depth.

There is a misconception that sfumato isexceptionally picturesque technique. This is not true. The same Leonardo perfectly used the technique in a pencil drawing. Achieving shading and shading delicate transitions. Also this technique works effectively in the pastel technique. Changing the degree of pressure on the pastel brush, the artist achieves a different degree of intensity of color, and the use of a wet chalk allows you to obtain a different degree of depth of the image. Also in the pastels to create the effect of sfumato using feather and tint. This allows you to erase the boundary between the color and tonal transitions and get the desired effect of fog and haze.

Masterpieces of Leonardo

There are only a few geniuses who couldthink of something exceptionally new in painting, and one of them is Leonardo da Vinci. Admission to painting sfumato, as well as a spatial perspective, is the artist's most important find. When we talk about sfumato, then, of course, we recall the main masterpiece of da Vinci - "La Gioconda". The background of this work is a model of the classic "smoky" painting. The figure of the Mona Lisa becomes more impressive and expressive precisely because of the diffuse, non-vigorous and such atmospheric backdrop. The mystery of her smile is largely due to the transparency of the background. Also the Sfumato technique in painting is presented in several master's works, including "Madonna in the rocks", "Madonna and Child", "John the Baptizer", "Madonna with a Carnation".


Its development sfumato in painting received inengineering union. It is typical primarily for Raphael. In comparison with the classical sfumato, more bright colors are used in the union, and the contours of the figures remain more pronounced. However, the basic principle of imperceptibility of tonal transitions and transparency is also preserved here, which creates a sensation of air on the canvas. This new technique, incorporating the best features of sfumato, as well as other techniques of Italian painting are represented in such works by Raphael as "Three Graces" and several "Madonna" of the Florentine period.

sfumato technique in painting


The appearance of sfumato in painting led to the fact thatthere are several of its variations. Thus, Michelangelo creates his own version of the multi-layered manner of writing - kandzhiante. The technique is based on the transmission of light and shadow, but, in contrast to sfumato, where the transitions were maximally smoothed, a color contrast is applied here. The task of reception is the same - giving the image depth and perspective. A vivid example of this technique is the work of Michelangelo "Madonna of Doni."

sfumato in the painting of Leonardo da Vinci


The appearance of sfumato in painting provokedartists in search of similar opportunities in the schedule. This led to the appearance of multi-layered kyaroskuro technique. It consists in sequential imprinting of images from several boards, which allows you to transfer the game of light and shadow and create a voluminous composition. The ancestor of this technique was the Italian artist Ugo da Carli. The most famous master who owned this technique was the French schedule of Georges de Latour.

sfumato in painting examples

Followers of da Vinci

Since the time of Leonardo Sfumato in painting, exampleswhich can be found in different countries, has become a classic technique for creating deep, atmospheric works. Many artists used and apply this technique. The most notable followers of da Vinci are Titian, Johan Abeling, Omar Galliani.

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