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

13. 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]
CLXXIII A Section Dealing with Miscellaneous Incidental Operations: First, Block Printing on Cloth
Inasmuch as the execution of certain products painted on linen cloth, which are good for garments for little boys or children,[236] and [p. 115] for certain church lecterns, still has to do with the profession of brush, the way to do them is this.

Take a stretcher made as if it were a cloth-covered window, four feet long, two feet wide, with linen or heavy cloth nailed on the slats. When you want to paint your linen, roll up a quantity of four or fourteen yards all together, and lay the heading of this cloth over the stretcher. And take a block of either nut or pear, as long as it is good strong wood, and have it about the size of a tile or a brick; and have this block drawn upon and hollowed out a good line deep; and on it should be drawn whatever style of silk cloth you wish, either leaves or animals. And have it so divided in shape and so drawn that all four faces will come out in a repeat, and make a finished and unified job. And on the other side, which is not engraved, it should have a handle, so that you can lift it and apply it. When you are going to work:

Have a glove on your left hand; and first grind some vine-sprig black, ground very fine with water, then thoroughly dried either by sun or fire, then ground again, dry; and mix it with as much liquid varnish as may be required;[237] and take up some of this black with a little trowel, and spread it out on the palm of your hand, that is, on the glove. And thus you ink up[238 the block with it where it has been engraved, neatly, so that the incision does not get choked up. Set to work, and place it systematically and evenly upon the cloth spread out on the stretcher. And underneath the stretcher take a porringer in your right hand, or a little wooden porringer, and, with the back, rub hard over the space occupied by the incised block; and when you have rubbed until you think that the color has penetrated the cloth or linen thoroughly, lift your block, put color on it over again, and replace it very systematically, in this way, until you finally get the whole cloth done.

This work needs to be embellished with other coloring laid in here and there, to make it look more showy; for this you ought to have colors without body, namely, yellow, red, and green. The yellow: take some saffron, warm it well at the fire, temper it with good strong [p. 117] lye. Then take a rather blunt bristle brush. Spread out the painted cloth on a bench or table, and set out, with this yellow, animals or figures or foliage ornaments, as you think best. Next take some brazilwood, scraped with glass; put it to soak in lye; boil it up with a little rock alum; boil it for a while, until you see that it has acquired its full crimson[239] color. Take it off the fire, so that it does not spoil; then set it out with the brush, just as you did the yellow. Then take some verdigris, ground with vinegar, and a little saffron, tempered with a little weakish size. Set it out with this brush, just as you have done the other colors; and have them so set out that each animals appears in yellow, red, green, and white.

Furthermore, for executing this work it is good to burn linseed oil, as I have shown you before; and temper some of that black, which is very fine, with liquid varnish; and it is a very perfect and fine black; but it is more expensive.

This process[240] is good for working on green cloth, and red, black, and yellow, and blue or pale blue. If it is green, you may work on it in red lead or vermilion. After grinding it very fine with water dry it well; powder it up, and temper it with liquid varnish. Put some of this color on the glove, just as you did with the black, and work in the same way.

If it is red cloth, take some indigo and white lead. After grinding it fine with water, drain it and dry it in the sun; then powder it up; temper it with liquid varnish as usual; and work the way you do with black.

If the cloth is black, you may work on it in quite a light blue, that is, a good deal of white lead and a little indigo, mixed, ground and tempered according to the practice which I have given you for the other colors.

If the cloth is light blue, take some white lead, ground and dried off and tempered like the other colors. And in general, as you find the grounds, so you can find other colors differing from them, lighter and darker, as it seems to you may suit your fancy. For one thing will teach you another, both by experience and by theoretical understanding [p. 117] The reason is that every profession is fundamentally skilled and pleasant. God helps those who help themselves,[241] and contrariwise the same.

CLXXIV How to Gild a Stone Figure.[242]
A man in one profession may happen to understand working perfectly at all kinds of things, and especially at things which may bring him reputation; and therefore, not because it is usual, but because I have relished it, for that reason, I will explain it to you. Into your hands comes a stone figure, large or small; you wish to lay it in burnished gold. For this you follow this method: sweep and clean your figure up nicely; then take some of the usual size, that is, of the strength with which you gesso anconas; and get it boiling hot. And when it is boiling so, put a coat or two of it over this figure, and let it dry out well.

After this, take pieces of oak or male-oak charcoal, and pound them; and take a tamis, and sift the dust out of this charcoal with it. Then take a sieve fine enough for grain such as millet to go through, and sift this charcoal, and put the siftings aside; and make enough of them in this way to serve your purpose. When this is done, take linseed oil, cooked and brought to the perfect condition for making a mordant, and mix a third of liquid varnish with it. Boil it all together thoroughly.

When it is quite hot, take a dish; put the siftings of the charcoal into it. After this, put in this mordant: mix it up well, and apply it with a good-sized bristle or minever brush evenly to every part, and all over the figure or other job. When you have done so, put it somewhere to dry thoroughly in the wind or sun, as you please.

When your figure is good and dry, take a little of this same size. Put into it, if there is one glassful of it,[243] one yolk of egg. Mix it up well; and, while quite hot, take a bit of sponge; soak it in this tempera, and, with the sponge not too full, wipe and rub over every place to which [p. 119] you applied the mordant and the charcoal. In explanation of the purpose of applying this mordant, the reason is this: that stone always holds moisture, and when gesso tempered with size becomes aware of it, it promptly rots and comes away and is spoiled: and so the oil and varnish are the instruments and means of uniting the gesso with the stone, and I explain it to you on that account. The charcoal always keeps dry of the moisture of the stone.

Then, when you wish to go on with your work, take gesso grosso and size, tempered in the same way you gesso the flat of a panel or ancona, except that I want you to put in, according to the quantity, one or two or three egg yolks; and then lay it over the job with a slice; and if you mix up with these things a little dust of pounded bricks it will be so much the better. And apply this gesso two or three times with a slice, and let it dry out thoroughly.

When it is perfectly dry, scrape it and clean it up, just as you do on panel or ancona. Then take gesso sottile or gilders' gesso,[244] and temper and grind this gesso with the same size, just as you do for gesso on panel, except that you must put in a certain amount of egg yolk, not so much as you put into the gesso grosso: and begin by putting the first coat of it on the job, rubbing it down with your hand very perfectly. From this coat on, lay the gesso with a brush, four or six coats, just the way you apply gesso on panel, with that same method and diligence. When this is done, and quite dry, scrape it down nicely; then lay it with tempered bole as you do on panel; and follow the same course and method in gilding, and burnishing with stone or crook. And it is as splendid a branch of this profession as there can possibly be. And if you ever have a case in which work gilded in this way has to risk injury from water, you may varnish it; but it is not so handsome, though very much stronger.

CLXXV The Dangers of a Wet Wall for Fresco.[245]
In connection with this kind of work, it is sometimes necessary to [p. 119] take steps for jobs to be done on damp walls: so it behooves you to prepare yourself with judgment and sound practice.

Know that moisture has the effect on the wall that oil has on panel; and just as moisture mars the lime mortar, so oil mars the gesso and its temperas: and so it is important to know how this moisture can come to work great damage, since I have told you above that the noblest and strongest tempering which can be done upon a wall consists in working in fresco, that is, on the fresh mortar. And know that no matter how much water ever rained upon the front surface of the wall, it could never do any harm at all; but it is that which rains on the back of the wall, on the other surface, which does great damage; and even the slightest drop which falls on the top of the wall, in the open. And so steps must be taken against this, as follows.

Preliminary Precautions Against Moisture.[246]
First look over the place where you are working, and see how sound the wall is, and how it is coped; and have it coped with the utmost perfection. And if it is in a place where any water runs through a drain which cannot reasonably be shifted, use the following method:

Waterproofing with Boiled Oil.[247]
Regardless of the stone the wall is made of, take linseed oil cooked as if for a mordant, and temper pounded brick with it, and wet it up. But first apply some of this oil or mordant to the wall, boiling hot, with a brush or swab. After that, take some of this mixture of pounded brick, and apply it to the wall so that it comes out quite rough. Let it dry for a month or so, until it gets thoroughly dry. Then, with a trowel, take some good fresh slaked lime;[248] equal parts of lime and coarse sand; and, mixing with it some sifted powder of pounded brick, plaster it thoroughly once or twice, leaving the plaster quite rough and uneven. Then, when you wish to paint and work on it, [p. 120] lay up your thin finish coat, just as I showed you how before, for work on the wall.

Waterproofing with Pitch.[249]
For this same purpose: first take some of this ship pitch, and apply it and smear[250] the wall with it, boiling hot. When you have done this, take some of the same pitch or tar; and take good dry or brand-new brick, pounded up. Pound it up thoroughly, and work a certain amount of it into this pitch. Apply it all over the wall, that is, as far as the dampness extends, and farther. And it is a very perfect plaster. And rough-coat with lime mortar, as I have shown you and told you above.

Waterproofing with Liquid Varnish.[251]
Again, for the same: get a quantity of liquid varnish boiling hot, and applying it to the surface of the damp wall at first, and in the same way applying some of the pounded brick mixed with the aforesaid varnish, makes a very perfect and good remedy.

How to distemper inside Walls with Green.[252]
You sometimes work in rooms, or under porches or galleries, which are not always carried out in fresco, because you find them already plastered. And you want to work in green: for this, take some terre-verte, well ground, and tempered with gesso size, not too strong, and apply two or three coats of it to the whole ground, with a large bristle brush. When you have done this, and it is dry, draw with charcoal the way you do on panel, and fix your scenes with ink, or with black color, that is, vine charcoal well worked up and tempered with egg, or even yolk of egg and the white together. And having dusted off the charcoal, take some water in a porringer, or a large basin, or a Tuscan gill; after this, put in as much as a spoonful of honey, and beat it all up thoroughly. Having done this, take a sponge, and plunge it into this water; squeeze it out a little, and run it over the ground laid in green. Then with a wash of black apply your shadows, very delicate [p. 121] and soft and blended. Then take white lead ground and tempered with this egg tempera mentioned above, and put the lights on your figures as required by your professional system.

You may put a little coloring on these figures which differs from the green, say with ocher, cinabrese, and orpiment; and embellish any little ornaments, and likewise put in grounds with blue. And now that you may also execute this sort of work in green on panel; and likewise on a wall in fresco, plastering, and laying in with this terre-verte: it is true that the lights should be put on with lime white.

How to Varnish Terre-Verte.[253]
You will run into people[254] who will have you work on panel in greens, and want you to varnish it. I tell you that it is not the custom, and terre-verte does not call for it; but all the same they have to be satisfied. Now follow this method:

Take scrapings of sheep parchment; boil them well with clear water, until it becomes a regular tempera, that is, a size. With a large minever brush put two or three coats of this size nicely and lightly on to your figures or scenes, uniformly all over whatever you have to varnish. When you have applied this size, all clear and clean, and strained well twice, let your work dry out for the space of three or four days. Then varnish all over with your varnish confidently, for you will find that the terre-verte will take the varnish just as the other colors will.

How to Clean off the Paint After You have Made up a Face.[255]
In the exercise of the profession, you will sometimes have to stain or paint on flesh, chiefly to paint the face of a man or woman. You may have your colors tempered with egg; or, for making up, with oil, or with liquid varnish, which is the strongest tempera of all. But if you want to wash this color or tempera off the face afterward, take egg yolks; rub them on the face gradually, and chafe it with your [p. 123] hand. Then take hot water, boiled with bran or husks,[256] and wash his face. And then take another egg yolk, and again chafe his face, then taking hot water in the same way, and washing his face again. Do this over and over until the face comes out in its original color. Saying no more about this subject:

The Perils of Indulgence in Cosmetics.[257]
You would have occasion, in the service of young ladies, especially those of Tuscany,[258] to display certain colors to which they take a fancy. And they are in the habit of beautifying themselves with certain waters. But since the Paduan women do not do so; and so as not to give them occasion to reproach me; and likewise because it is contrary to the will of God and of Our Lady; because of all this I shall keep silence. But I will tell you that if you wish to keep your complexion for a long time, you must make a practice of washing in water--spring or well or river: warning you that if you adopt any artificial preparation your countenance soon becomes withered, and your teeth black; and in the end ladies grow old before the course of time; they come out the most hideous old women imaginable. And this will have to be enough discussion of the matter. [p. 123]



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