Sunday, July 10, 2011

KWHSS: Italian White Vine Illumination

The illumination class I attended was on bianchi girari, a short-lived humanist style from the 15th century. Humanists thought everything they needed to know about morality and productivity could be found in Greek and Latin classics. They created White Vine illumination as a revival of Carolingian styles from the 8th-12th centuries. It was used in books, but unlike, say, the Book of Kells, you wouldn't see illumination on every page. The title page would have a big border. Sometimes the beginnings of chapters would have borders as well. The first letters of important sections would also be illuminated

It was used all over Italy, but the styles particular to Florence and Naples were the most well-known. Florence white vines were organic-looking and the repetition of sections of vine was not uniform. Naples vines were symmetric and densely-packed. We went through some pictures and made guesses as to which was which, but I had trouble teasing it out as the hard-and-fast rules were not actually hard-and-fast. The density was easier to see than the symmetry or asymmetry. A lot of the asymmetry wasn't really visible until she pointed it out. Probably because the style is so busy and we weren't placing our axes of symmetry in the right place. The pictures on the pdf she made aren't labelled by city and my quick internet search for examples of each has been fruitless, so I don't have exemplars for you.

The hand used in the calligraphy was of the humanist or italic styles. I'm not sure what constitutes an italic hand, but the teacher stressed that it does not equal italicized. The ink for the calligraphy was dark brown rather than black. Black is too harsh and clashes with the flowing, colorful style of bianchi girardi. 

To make your own bianchi girardi, start by tracing existing examples. Do this until you're familiar enough with the style to freehand. They traced in period, so don't feel like you're taking a shortcut.

You will need the following materials:*
  1. Ink
    • Period- Oak gall (can substitute walnut gall if not available)
    • Modern- Substitute any dark brown ink if you're lacking in funds, or worried about toxicity.
  2. Pens and nibs
    • Period-Crow quill nibs work well
    • Modern- Substitute a dark sepia fine point artist's pen if you're new to illumination or lacking in funds. If a pen (other than fountain) is used, you won't need separate ink.
  3. Brushes
    • Fine brushes for detailed painting. Can use toothpicks for the dots.
  4. Colors
    • Gold
      • Period- The bars and bezants were raised gold.
      • Modern- Gold gouache if inexperienced or lacking in funds.
    • Blue
      • Best- Ultramarine
      • Alternative- Slightly dilute dark to medium blues with white.
    • Red
      • Best- Cadmium red
      • Alternative- Madder lake of alizarin crimson
    • Green
      • Sap green
    • Yellow
      • Any opaque yellow. Not a prolific color in period, but can be found occasionally.
    • White
      • Any white which will not let the other colors show through. Vines can be painted white or left the color of the paper.

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