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Miniature painting

This technique, that appeared around 1620-1630, can be compared to oil painting
since the miniaturist outlines his subject on a surface that has been enamelled on both sides.

The earliest miniatures are a series of coloured drawings or miniature cuts from the Ambrosian Iliad, an illustrated version of the manuscript of the 3rd Century in which the miniatures have similarities in style and treatment to the pictorial art of the late Roman Classical period. In those illustrations there is a consistent variety and quality of drawings and also many notable instances of fine designed classical figures, showing how the earlier Art still exercised its influence; so its for the landscapes, classical but not conventional to the medieval style, attempting to represent the true nature, even with its imperfection, as in the Pompeian frescoes or in other paintings of the Roman Age.
But from an artistic point of view, a greater value can be given to the Vatican Virgil’s Manuscript, known as the Vergilius Vaticanus, made in the early 5th Century.

The miniatures of this manuscript are in a better condition and are larger than the Ambrosian Iliad fragments, offering a better opportunity to examining methods and techniques.

In fact, the drawings are quite classical and the conveyed idea is that the miniatures are direct copies of older series; the colours are opaque as in all early manuscripts miniatures the use of body colour was universal.

The way of placing the different scenes on the page is highly instructive about the practices followed by the artists of the early centuries: the background was fully painted, covering the whole page surface, then larger figures and object were painted over, and over again smaller details until figures on the foreground were super-imposed.

For ensuring perspective, an arrangement of horizontal zones was always adopted, making the upper ones containing figures on a smaller scale than those below.

Technique

This technique, that appeared around 1620-1630, can be compared to oil painting since the miniaturist outlines his subject on a surface that has been enamelled on both sides. The colour is then gradually built up using finely ground enamel mixed consistently with essential oils and set on fire between each application; the softest colours are usually applied at the end, and set on fire only at as final step.