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Regraxar or glazing: Aspects of this technique in a group of Portuguese panel paintings from the second half of the 16th century attributed to Francisco João

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Comunicação Comunicação sob a forma de poster
Autores H. Pinheiro de Melo, A. J. Cruz, A. Candeias, J. Mirão, S. Valadas
Evento 4th ATSR Meeting - Technology and Interpretation - Reflecting the artist's Process, ICOM-CC Working Group of Art Technological Source Research
Local Vienna, Academy of Fine Arts, 23-24 de Setembro de 2010
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Resumo The painting production of Francisco João, the most important painter working in the region of Évora, South of Portugal, between 1563 and 1595, is currently the subject of a scientific program that aims at the identification and characterization of the materials and the techniques used in the regional painting workshops of Évora, in the second half of the 16th century. Strongly influenced by Luís de Morales, who also worked in the city of Évora and lived just across the border, in Southern Spain, Francisco João was a very productive artist, leaving behind a group of more than forty paintings that are currently attributed to his workshop.

The scientific study of this group of paintings provides a unique opportunity to compare technical aspects of the original paintings with historical documentary sources of the period. If the information related to materials and technique is very scarce in the contracts of the period, a more interesting comparison can be done with the Portuguese painting treatises by Filipe Nunes (1615) and with a recently published treatise on illumination written before 1640 by a religious monk of the Order of Christ: a document that also makes reference to the pratice of painting in oil. Pacheco’s The Art of Painting (1649) is also considered since geographically, historically and culturally, Portugal was closely related to Spain and it was particularly common in the 16th century for Spanish painters to work in Portugal and viceversa. Furthermore, between 1580 and 1640 Portugal was politically under Spanish authority. Even though these documents date from the first half of the 17th century, they were selected on the basis of their iberic origin along with the fact that, in part, they relate to practices from the previous century, since painters such as Carducho, Becerra, Vargas, Campaña or Morales are frequently named.

This paper focuses on the technique of glazing, called ‘regraxar’ in the Portuguese treatises and ‘bañar’ or ‘trasflorar’ in the document by Pacheco. The authors refer to this technique for making red, green and blue. The monk of the Order of Christ further indicates “glazing” with white mixed with a desired colour, to give a sfumato or cloudy appearance to angels and figures in the backgound. According to him, Carducho used this technique. Evidence of the techniques mentioned above, with variations according to the documents, was found on the paintings by Francisco João. The comparison between the paintings and the treatises is made in terms of the materials present (pigments and driers), the build-up of the undermodelling layers and also in terms of the instruments used to apply the glazes, since the portuguese treatises mention the use of a cloth or dry brush.

For the investigation, forty paint cross-sections were analysed by optical microscopy and information concerning the pigments, the pigments’ mixtures and the paint stratigraphy was obtained. The materials of the paint layers of twentytwo samples were identified using optical microscopy, Fourier transform infrared microspectroscopy (FTIR) and variable pressure scanning electron microscopy coupled with energy dispersive X-ray spectrometry (VP-SEM-EDS).
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