Notebook, 1993-

Il Libro dell' Arte - Cennino D' Andrea Cennini. The Craftsman's Handbook. The Italian "Il Libro dell' Arte." Translated by Daniel V. Thompson, Jr. New York: Dover Publications, Inc. 1933, by Yale University Press.

Notes 1-50   Notes 51-124   Notes 125-162   Notes 163-283

10. Milanesi

Note: The following chapter numbers and headings are not original to the Libro dell' Arte. The headings have been invented merely to serve as a running guide to the content of the text; the numbers are those attached to the chapters in the editions of Tambroni and the Milanesi, and are included here for convenience in locating references to those editions or to translations based upon them. [See Preface, p. xviii, above.]

Milanesi [Chapter numbers]
CLXII A Section Dealing with Work on Cloth: First, Painting and Gilding
Now let us speak about how to work on cloth, that is, on linen or on silk.[195] And you will adopt this method for cloth: in the first place, stretch it taut on a frame, and begin by nailing down the lines of the seems. Then go around and around with tacks, to get it stretched out evenly and systematically, so that it all has every thread perfectly arranged. When you have done this, take gesso sottile and a little starch, or a little sugar, and grind these things with the kind of size with which you tempered the gesso on panel; grinding them good and fine; but first put on an all-over coat of this size without any gesso. And it would not matter if the size were not as strong as for gesso. Keep it as hot as you can; and, with a blunt soft bristle brush, lay some on both sides, if you are going to do painting on each side. Then, when it is dry, take the cloth; take a knife blade which is even on the edge, and as straight as a ruler; and lay some of this gesso on the canvas with this edge, putting it on and taking it off evenly, as if you were scraping it down. And the less gesso you leave on, the better it is; just so you fill up the interstices between the threads. It will be amply sufficient to put on one coat of gesso. When it is dry, take a penknife which scrapes well, and look over the cloth to see whether there is any node or knot on it, and get rid of it; and then take your charcoal. Draw on cloth just the way you draw on panel; and fix it with a wash of ink. Then I will teach you, if you wish, how to lay the diadems or grounds in gold, burnished as on panel, which, on any cloth or silk, are ordinarily laid with a mordant, that is, with the linseed [p. 103] one. But, because this method is a source of wonder among the others, since much [. . .][196] done, I will tell you about it. And you may roll up and fold the cloth without hurting the gold and the colors. First take some of this gesso sottile, and a little bole: and temper this gesso with a little white of egg and size, and lay a coat on the part which you want to gild. When it is dry, scrape it a little bit; then take bole, ground and tempered, just like what you lay on panel, and in the same way put on five or six coats of it. Let it stand for a day or so. Lay your gold just as you do on panel, and burnish it, holding a very smooth and solid board underneath this cloth, keeping a cushion between the cloth and the board. And in this way stamp and punch these diadems, and they will be just the same as on panel. But you must afterward; because sometimes these banners, which are made for churches, get carried outdoors in the rain; and therefore you must take care to get a good clear varnish, and when you varnish the painting, varnish these diadems and gold grounds a little, too.

In the same way as for anconas you should paint, step by step, on this cloth; and it is more pleasant to work on it than on panel, because the cloth holds the moisture a little; and it is just as if you were working in fresco, that is, on a wall. And I will also inform you that, in painting, the colors must be laid in many, many times, far more than on panel, because the cloth has no body as the ancona has, and it does not show up well under varnishing when it is poorly laid in. Temper the colors the same as for panel. And I will not enlarge upon this any more.

CLXIII Various Ways to Do Hangings.[197]
If you have to work on black or blue cloth, as for hangings, stretch your cloth as described above. You do not have to apply gesso; you cannot draw with charcoal. Take tailors' chalk, and make little pieces of it neatly, just as you do with charcoal; and put them into a goosefeather quill, of whatever size is required. Put a little stick into this [p. 104] quill, and draw lightly. Then fix with tempered white lead. Next, lay a coat of that size with which you temper the gessos on anconas or on panel. Then lay in as thoroughly as you can, and paint costumes, faces, mountains, buildings, and whatever appeals to you; and temper in the usual way.

Also, for painting hangings, you may cut white cloth, and put it on top of the blue cloth, fastening it on with pastes, like glue; and lay it on according to the figures which you wish to distribute over the ground; and you may paint with washes of colors, without varnishing afterward. And you get more done, and cheaply, and they are handsome enough at the price.

Also, on hangings, you may do some foliage decorations with a brush, and indigo and pure white lead, on the ground, tempering with size; and leave a few pretty areas, among these foliage decorations, to carry out some little designs in gold done with oil mordants.

CLXIV How to Draw for Embroiderers.[198]
Again, you sometimes have to supply embroiderers with designs of various sorts. And, for this, get these masters to put cloth or fine silk on stretchers for you, good and taut. And if it is white cloth, take your regular charcoals, and draw whatever you please. Then take your pen and your pure ink, and reinforce it, just as you do on panel with a brush. Then sweep off your charcoal. Then take a sponge, well washed and[199] squeezed out in water. Then rub the cloth with it, on the reverse, where it has not been drawn on; and go on working the sponge until the cloth is damp as far as the figure extends. Then take a small, rather blunt, minever brush; dip it in the ink; and after squeezing it out well you begin to shade with it in the darkest places, coming back and softening gradually. You will find that there will not be any cloth so coarse but that, by this method, you will get your shadows so soft that it will seem to you miraculous.[200] And if the cloth [p. 105] gets dry before you have finished shading, go back with the sponge and wet it again as usual. And let this suffice you for work on cloth.

CLXV How To Work on Silk, on Both Sides.[201]
If you have to do pals or other jobs on silk, first spread them out on a stretcher as I taught you for the cloth. And, according to what the ground is, take crayons,[202] either black or white. Do your drawing, and fix it either with ink or with tempered color; and if the same scene or figure has to be executed on both sides, put the stretcher in the sun, with the drawing turned toward the sun, so that it shines through it. Stand on the reverse side. With your tempered color, with your fine minever brush, go over the shadow which you see made by the drawing. If you have to draw at night, take a large lamp on the side toward your design, and a small lamp on the side which you are drawing, that is, on the right side;[203] thus there might be a lighted taper on the side which is drawn on, and a candle on the side which you are drawing, if there is no sun. And if you have to draw by day, contrive to have light from two windows on the side with the drawing, and have the light from one little window shine on what you have to draw.

Then size with the usual size wherever you have to paint or gild; and mix a little white of egg with this size, say one white of egg to four goblets or glasses of size. And when you have got it sized, if you want to lay any diadem or ground in burnished gold, to bring you great honor and reputation, take gesso sottile and a little Armenian bole, ground very fine together, and a little bit of sugar. Then, with the usual size and a very little white of egg, mixed with a small amount of white lead, you put on two coats of it thinly wherever you wish to gild. Then apply your bole just as you apply it on panel. Then lay your gold with clear water, mixing with it a little of the tempera [p. 107] for the bole; and burnish it over a good smooth slab, or a good sound, smooth board. And stamp and punch it likewise over this board.

Furthermore, you may paint any subject in the usual way, tempering the colors with yolk of egg, laying the colors in six or eight times, or ten, out of regard for the varnishing; and then you may gild the diadems or grounds with oil mordants; and the embellishments with garlic mordants, varnishing afterward, but preferably with oil mordants. And let this serve for ensigns, banners and all.

CLXVI How to Paint and Gild on Velvet.[204]
If you have to work on velvets, or to design for embroiderers, draw your works with a pen, with either ink or tempered white lead. If you have to paint or gild anything, take size as usual, and an equal amount of white of egg, and a little white lead; and with a bristle brush put it on the pile,[205] and beat it down hard, and press it down thoroughly flat. Paint and lay gold in the way described, but just mordant gilding. But it will be less trouble for you to work each thing out on white silk, cutting out the figures or whatever else you do, and have the embroiderers fasten them on your velvet.[206]

CLXVII How to Lay Gold and Silver on Woolen Cloth.[207]
If you happen to have to work on woolen cloth, on account of tourneys or jousts, for gentlemen or great lords sometimes teem with desire for distinctive things, and want their arms in gold or silver on this sort of cloth: first, according to the color of the stuff or cloth, select the crayon[208] which it requires for drawing; and fix it with a pen, just as you did on the velvet. Then take white of egg, well beaten as I taught you before, and an equal amount of size, in the usual way; [p. 107] and put it on the nap[209] of this cloth, on the part where you have to do gilding. Then when it is dry take a crook, and burnish over this cloth; then apply two more coats of this tempera. When it is quite dry, apply your mordant so as not to go outside the tempered part, and lay whatever gold or silver you think fit.

CLXVIII How to make Devices out of Gilded Paper.[210]
Now and then, for these tourneys and jousts, devices are made on the covered horses and on the uniforms, modeled, and sewn on these productions. So I will show you how to make them out of paper. And these papers are laid first, the whole sheet of paper, either with burnished gold or silver. And it is done in this way: grind a little ocher, some tailors' chalk, and a bit of Armenian bole as fine as ever you can. Temper them together with size which is practically plain water, so that it is not at all strong, but has little substance or worth; and, with a soft bristle brush, or with a minever brush, lay one coat of it all over the sheets of paper, fit for writing, but not written on. And when they are dry, go back, and wet a section with a minever brush, and gild that section in the same way and system as you lay gold on the bole on panel; and when you have got the whole sheet laid, watch for the time to burnish it. Take a good flat slab, or a good smooth, hard board, and burnish your sheets over that; and set them aside. And out of these sheets you may make animals, flowers, roses, and devices of many sorts, and it will win you much renown; and you do it quickly and well. And you may embellish them with a little coloring in oil.

CLXIX How to Model Crests or Helmets.[211]
Whenever you have occasion to make a crest or helmet for a tourney, or for rulers who have to march in state, you must first get some white leather which is not dressed except with myrtle or ciefalonia,[212] stretch it, and draw your crest the way you want it made. And draw [p. 108] two of them, and sew them together; but leave it open enough on one side so that you can put sand into it; and press it with a little stick until it is all quite full. When you have done this, put it in the sun for several days. When it is quite dry, take the sand out of it . Then take some of the regular size for gessoing, and size it two or three times. Then take some gesso grosso ground with size, and mix in some beaten tow, and get it stiff, like a batter; and put on this gesso, and rough it in, giving it any shape of man, or beast, or bird, which you may have to make, getting it as like as you can. This done, take some gesso grosso ground with size, liquid and flowing, on a brush, and you lay it three or four times over this crest with a brush. Then, when it is quite dry, scrape it and smooth it down, just as you do when you work on panel. Then, in the same way, as I showed you how to gesso with gesso sottile on panel, in that same way gesso this crest. When it is dry, scrape it and smooth it down; and then if it is necessary to make the eyes of glass, put them in with the gesso for modeling;[213] do modeling if it is called for. Then, if it is to be gold or silver, lay some bole, just as on panel; and follow the same method in every detail, and the same for the painting, varnishing it in the usual way.

CLXX How to do Caskets or Chests.[214]
In executing caskets or chests, if you want to do them royally, gesso them, and follow all the methods which you follow in working on panel, for gilding and for painting and for stamping, embellishing and for varnishing, without obliging me to tell you about each step.

If you want to execute other caskets of less worth, size them first, and lay cloth over the cracks, and you do that with the previous ones as well. But you may just gesso these at first with the slice and brush with well-sifted ashes and the usual size. When they are gessoed and dry, smooth them down; and, if you care to, gesso them afterward with gesso sottile, if you wish. If you want to embellish them with any figures or other devices made of tin, follow this method:[215]

Get a soft stone, flat and fine grained, and engrave the surface of [p. 109] this stone, or get it engraved for you; and the slightest hollow is enough. Have engraved upon it figures, animals, devices--flowers, stars, roses, and any kind your mind desires. Then take some tin foil, either yellow or white, in several thicknesses; and lay it over the impression which you wish to take. Then have a sort of wad of soaked tow, well squeezed out; and lay it over this tin. And in your other hand take a willow mallet, not too heavy, and pound this tow, shifting it and turning it about with your other and. And when you have pounded it thoroughly, so that you see every incision show up clearly, take gesso grosso ground rather stiff with size, and put some of it over this tin foil with a slice. When you have done this, take a penknife, and, with the tip of it, pick out the top piece of tin, and pry it loose, and lift it off. Then come back with your gesso and your slice, as before: pick out and separate this piece of tin in the same way. Make enough of them in this fashion to give you an abundant supply, and set them out to dry. When they are dry, take a good sharp knife point, and put this tin on a good flat board of nut wood, piece by piece, and cut away all the tin which comes outside the outline of your figure. And in this way make any amount you wish.

When you have got your caskets gessoed systematically and laid in with any color you wish, take some of the usual size, and even stronger, and moisten the gesso of your figures or devices thoroughly, and immediately stick them on; and arrange them on the ground of your casket, and outline and apply a little coloring with a minever brush. Then varnish this ground. When it is dry, take a beaten white of egg, and rub over the varnished part with a sponge moistened in this white: and then, with other colors, hatch and embellish the ground, using any color you wish which differs distinctly from the ground. And I will not stop to say any more about this, for, if you are really expert and accomplished in great things, you will be able to manage small ones all right. Showing you, in the next place, how to work on glass. [p. 110]



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