Friday, July 29, 2011


L'economie des moyens picturaux contre l'emploi de materiaux onereux dans la peinture ancienne. Charikleia Brécoulaki. In Coulours et matrie\res dans l'antiquité. Textes, Techniques et pratiques. Agnes Rouveret, Sandrine Dubel et Valerie Naas, eds. 2006, 29-42.

Roman writers such as Pliny, Cicero, and Quintillian are not reliable source of the theory and method of ancient painting because they were not themselves experts in the field, and even if they had read ancient treatises on the subject, they were likely to have misunderstood some of the technical aspects of them; besides, they were as far distant from the painters of ancient Greece as we are from Fra Angelico or Pietro della Franchesca.

Pliny's colores floridi are names of pigments crossing the warm/cool divide, including reds, purples, greens, and blues. None of the ones he names have been found at Pompeii except purpurissum; minium has been found elsewhere on Roman paintings. The floridi colores are unstable and incompatible with fresco painting.

Even granting the use of the pigments Pliny names, their appearance in artworks depends deeply on the pigments' preparation (eg fineness of grinding) and application. The term floridi is itself a translation of  Greek α'νθηρός which refers to dying clothes purple, with its attendant association of luxury.
Or, pour revenir aux termes latins, lorsque les adjectifs floridus et austerus sont employes en contexte pictural, ils suggerent egalement, d'une maniere assez generale, l'abondance et le luxe par opposition a la simplicite et a la sobriete ... [40]

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