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La decorazione libraria negli scritti medievali sulle tecniche artistiche

Gianluca del Monaco


The article presents a brief survey of how book illumination is considered in a few of the primary medieval texts on artistic techniques. It is intended to scrutinize which themes are explored and how and with which words they are examined. The texts chosen are the tip of the iceberg of medieval literature regarding artistic techniques. Indeed, they can be regarded as the most significant for the current topic. The contribution starts from the enduring appreciation for writing in precious metals witnessed in the early Middle Ages by the Compositiones Lucenses and Eraclius’ verse treatise. Hereafter, it focuses on the Byzantine-inspired painting techniques for flesh and drapery consisting of the use of a uniform layer of colour for the base tone, one or more layers of clearer tones for highlighting, and one or more layers of darker tones for shading. These techniques are variously described by later works, from Theophilus’ De diuersis artibus to the Libellus ad faciendum colores dandos in carta, also known as De arte illuminandi. The article concludes with the latter, the first complete treatise specifically devoted to manuscript illumination, and the adoption of organic glazes for making shades brighter, widespread in Late Gothic.