Now begins my Apprenticeship to Cennino Cennini
Imagine what a painter’s life was like in Renaissance Florence….No Adobe Illustrator, no printers, no digital cameras, no acrylic paints, no pre-made paints, no markers, no sand paper, no Dremel tools, no YouTube tutorials, no Home Depot, no mega art supply stores! Yet, amazing art was produced. How did they do it?
In my quest to learn Italian Renaissance painting, I stumbled into several period manuscripts on art techniques and materials, which I found fascinating. After experimenting with some of the techniques described, I found them surprisingly helpful and wanted to try them all.
Cennino Cennini’s book, The Craftsman’s Hanbook “Il Libro dell’Arte” (ISBN: 0-486-20054-X) written in 1437, (translated by Daniel V. Thompson, Jr.) was of particular interest, being quite comprehensive. Topics include making tools and materials, drawing, painting, rendering, gilding and even some casting.
It occurred to me that the best way to learn would be to execute each of the chapters or “lessons” as if I were an apprentice to Cennini. But, more than that, I feel it is important to apply each lesson to a finished project. So, for example, the lesson on rendering a youthful face might be applied to a finished portrait painting; the section on making gesso sottile for gilding might be applied to a finished deck of luxury tarot cards, etc.
The book includes 189 chapters crammed into it’s 131 pages, so this is going to take some time! But, this is my geeky idea of fun and I will love every minute of it!
This is a learning project for me. Many of the lessons will be new to me and may fail completely, but that is part of the process. It is OK to if it doesn’t work exactly as described. The 577 year old manuscript, translated from Italian includes some fragments and some bits that are simply difficult to understand. Some of the materials described might be impossible to find. The measurements are definitely challenging. I will do my best to figure it out. That is part of the fun of it. There are a few sections that I will skip over or change due to safety concerns, unreasonable expense or feasibility issues. Those will be noted accordingly.
Disclaimer: I am not an expert on historical art. I am a self-taught artist with a personal interest in Medieval and Renaissance historical art. I am doing this purely for my own satisfaction, but happy to share the process and the results. I hope you will follow my posts and even use the information as a stepping stone in your own art projects and research.
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