oil painting » Painting techniques » Verdaccio


Verdaccio is an Italian name for the mixture of black, white, and yellow pigments resulting in a grayish or yellowish (depending on the proportion) soft greenish brown. Verdaccio became integral part of fresco painting where this color is used for defining tonal values, creating complete monochromatic underpainting. Often architectural details in frescoes are left in Verdacchio without any additional color layers, best example is the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, and where you can clearly see verdaccio underpainting left as is on all architectural details of the composition.

The technique of underpainting in verdaccio became known as Verdaccio.

Verdaccio painting1 Verdaccio painting2

In oil painting a similar technique is used by flemish painters which is referred to as the Dead Layer. "Dead Layer" is applied over the traditional bone colour (1 part raw umber 1 part yellow ochre) priming to refine the values and remove the warm tone of the primer. The resulted "white to olive green to black" underpainting is like "like being lit by a moon light" which does not affect the tonality of the final painting.

Verdaccio was used by a mixture of Renaissance artists. It has been in use as far back as the later half of the 13th century. Artists from that time age include both Giotto di Bondone (1266-1377), and Cennino Cenini (1370-1440). Both of these art masters used the verdaccio method in a number of works. Also, of the most famous paintings in the world, and if not the most famous painting. The Verdaccio technique was used by many other great artists during that time and is still employed today slightly customized through the use of better materials.

Verdaccio is a style of underpainting, which uses green-grey colours to establish values for later layers of paint. The technique is renowned for being particularly effective when painting flesh tones. As such, it was popular amongst Renaissance artists, and Leonardo da Vinci used verdaccio underpainting in his masterpiece, the Mona Lisa.