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From a Painter's Perspective: The Introduction to an Illustrated Manual on Painting attributed to Serlio (Milan, Ambrosiana Library MS I 204 inf. 2)

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Serlio achieved fame as an architect and the author of seven books on architecture, but his activities as a painter are hardly known. The recently discovered autograph manuscript reveals his thinking about this 'most noble art': collectively its pages form the introduction to an unfinished treatise on painting. As with his architectural discourse, Serlio's approach to writing about painting is entirely practical. In no sense a humanist reflection on the subject of art, the work was planned as an illustrated manual and pedagogical tool for the novice painter. The discussion opens with a first section on disegno where the rudiments of drawing are outlined. Very quickly Serlio turns to foreshortening and perspectives on the human figure, emphasising the infinite nuances possible as the body to be represented moves. Such concerns disclose the influence of his mentor Baldassare Peruzzi and association with other members of Raphael's studio. As presented in this manuscript, the manual may have graphically resembled Dürer's Vier Bücher in its printed form, but the rules of disegno respect the Italian workshop tradition as we know it from Carlo Urbino's Le regole del disegno (called the Codex Huygens) and the Leonardesque heritage. Serlio's projected volume of painting instruction may be regarded as a first literary experiment—a precursor to his later illustrated books on architecture.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: independent scholar, Paris

Publication date: December 1, 2016

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