discover the

Sfumato Technique

what is sfumato?

Sfumato was defined by Leonardo da Vinci as “without boundaries or limits, in the way of smoke or outside of the focal plane.” According to a few art historians’ widely accepted opinion, the sfumato technique, along with chiaroscuro, cangiante, and unione, was one of four ways of painting colors open to Italian High Renaissance artists.

exploring sfumato art

Meaning “to disappear like smoke,” sfumato included putting numerous thin coats of glazing to produce gentle tonal shifts and gradients between light and shadow, as well as adding subtle shifts to chiaroscuro.

exploring sfumato art

Giorgio Vasari attributed its origin to Jan van Eyck and Roger van der Weyden, although it was already associated with da Vinci, who perfected the technique.

famous sfumato examples

Ginevra de’ Benci (1478) Leonardo da Vinci

Virgin of the Rocks  (c. 1491 - 1508) Leonardo da Vinci

Youth Holding an Arrow (1505) Giorgione

Girl with a Pearl Earring  (c. 1665) Johannes Vermeer