VASARI is right when he says that Palma Vecchio was more skilful as a colorist than as a draftsman. Devoted to his art, painstaking and patient, he finished his pictures highly, blended his colors harmoniously, and was one of the first artists to paint in that soft, somewhat misty manner, that sfumato which was invented by Leonardo da Vinci, but not put into practice by the Venetians until Giorgione adopted it; and as Giorgione was of nearly the same age as Palma, it can be truly said that the latter was among the first painters of Venice to express in his pictures the presence of atmosphere, and who displayed that happy, indefinite quality which gives an effect of roundness to the forms by doing away with all hardness of outline. . . .
Almost without except on, Palma’s pictures are marked by softness and gentleness; his work is very delicate, but as it is not finicky in its details it produces as agreeable an effect when seen from a distance as when viewed at close range. Upon examination we appreciate the delicacy of work in which everything has been reproduced, while at a distance we no longer count each hair nor note each tiny fold of drapery or slight imperfection of the skin, but take in at a glance the principal lights and shadows, the effect of the whole; for the painter has understood how to reduce to a mass the most elaborate details.
Although distinctly Venetian, Palma’s method of painting differed from that of the other great masters in Venice. Tintoretto, for example, and even Titian himself in his old age, sought for a decorative effect, and often painted with an exaggeration of breadth, laying on the colors with apparent and yet with studied carelessness, so that the effect of their works could be obtained only from a distance, when, modified by the intervening air, they still pre-served to some extent their accent and their firmness. Palma, on the contrary, laid his colors on thinlyonly in the light places are they slightly loadedand having obtained his effects by means of glazing, obliterated all strokes of the brush according to the delicate manner of Titian in his early youth.
( Originally Published 1905 )
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