Today I had a lively in-studio conversation with friend, colleague and restorer Eowyn Kerr on Caravaggio, his technique (did he glaze?) and why a painter should never underestimate the potential of a good table cloth. She was even kind enough to make for me a lovely sketch on how to understand the cross-section of a painting sample (though she refused to sign it) and, in doing so, she suggested to me that Caravaggio did not lay in a lead white base for flesh to then glaze down, but rather, worked with a flesh mid-tone, then made the highlights with a flesh-colored lead white mix. To be specific: begin the flesh with an “extender white” or “shell white” (once known as “Biacco di San Giovanni”) mixed with some yellow ochre, green earth and vermillion, then, over that, the lead white flesh.
Of course, no conversation of Caravaggio is complete without speculating on his use of the camera obscura. Did he or didn’t he? I think he did. And not just because Hockney says he did:
I search again, this time for: “caravaggio cross-section of painting analysis”–
Non ci posso credere.
*** Below content added September 5, 2010 ***