Mona Lisashowing the use of sfumato, particularly in the shading around the eyes.]
Sfumato is the Italian term for a
paintingtechnique which overlays translucent layers of colour to create perceptions of depth, volume and form. In particular, it refers to the blending of colours or tones so subtly that there is no perceptible transition.
In Italian sfumato means "smoky" and is derived from the Italian word "fumo" meaning 'smoke'.
Leonardo da Vincidescribed sfumato as "without lines or borders, in the manner of smoke or beyond the focus plane". [cite book|last=Earls |first=Irene |title=Renaissance Art: A Topical Dictionary |year=1987 |publisher=Greenwood Press |isbn=0313246580 |pages=p263]
Leonardo is closely associated with the technique, and one of the best-known examples is his "
Mona Lisa". Critics and art historians have argued over whether or not the Mona Lisa is smiling. This debate is due to the use of sfumato around her mouth, making it a mystery as to whether the shadows are a result of a smile or if the smile is a result of the shadows. The painting is painted using tiny dots in several layers, around the eyes and mouth as many as 40 layers.
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