Skip to main content

A

Abrasion

A loss of material on the surface of an artwork, which may be caused by rubbing, scraping, wear, or deterioration over time.

Accademia di San Luca

Rome’s academy of art, officially founded in 1593, to serve the professional, social, and educational needs of painters, sculptors, and architects in the city. The Accademia assumed the functions of the artists’ guild and the congregazione, the religious organization associated with the Church and its confraternity.

B

Bamboccianti

A group of Dutch and Flemish painters (active in Rome, ca. 1625–1700) who shared a distinctive stylistic and thematic approach to their depiction of scenes from daily life in Rome. The group is named after the work of the Haarlem artist Pieter van Laer, who was nicknamed il Bambaccio (clumsy puppet) for his physical disfigurement.

Bentvueghels (Birds of a Feather)

An informal social group or fraternity of Dutch and Flemish artists active in Rome in the seventeenth century (ca. 1620–1720). These artists gathered around social and cultural interests, providing each other with support and camaraderie. Artists Pieter van Laer and Samuel van Hoogstraten, represented in The Leiden Collection, were members of the Bentvueghels. Also known as the Schildersbent (painter’s clique).

Beveling (in panel supports)

A slanted or sloping edge on a panel board, typically made to fit within a frame.

Blistering

The bubbling or bulging of the paint surface caused by exposure to heat, separation from the layers of paint below, and/or trapped air, liquid, or solid materials.

C

Caravaggism

A term associated with the style of the Italian artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571–1610), who was known for his thematic and stylistic innovations in painting, including the theatrical depiction of figures with dramatic gestures, and strong contrasts of light and dark (chiaroscuro). This style became popular among Netherlandish artists, particularly those in Utrecht, in the 1610s and 1620s. These so-called Utrecht Caravaggisti, such as Hendrick ter Brugghen, became acquainted with Caravaggio’s work during their time in Rome and disseminated this knowledge to artists throughout the Netherlands.

Catalogue raisonné

A comprehensive scholarly monograph of an artist’s work.

Chiaroscuro

An Italian term describing an artist’s use of contrasting areas of light and dark. This stylistic technique aids in the structure of form and the effects of depth and spatial illusion in a composition.

Classicism

An interest in Greek and Roman antiquity; a stylistic approach defined by idealized forms and conventions of beauty.

Connoisseurship

The practice of evaluating works of art based on close study and understanding of an artist’s style and technique in an effort to establish authorship and authenticity.

Conservation (art)

The professional discipline concerned with the scientific examination, documentation, and preservation of works of art. Those who practice conservation are referred to as conservators.

Cradling

A wooden grid of battens attached to the verso (reverse side) of a panel to prevent it from warping.

Craquelure

The network of (visible) cracks in the paint and ground layers of a painting.

Cusping

Distortions (like ripples) that appear as a result of tension created from nails or tacks that secure the canvas to the stretcher.

D

Dendrochronology (panel supports)

A technique of dating wood performed by examining the growth pattern (growth-rings) in the wood.

F

Fijnschilderijen (fine painting)

A Dutch term originating in the nineteenth century that refers to the fine, highly detailed manner of painting practiced by the Leiden artists Gerrit Dou and Frans van Mieris in the middle decades of the seventeenth century.

Flaking

Loss of areas of paint and/or ground.

G

Genre painting

A type of painting that depicts subjects of everyday life with naturalism and seeming verisimilitude. The Leiden Collection holds a significant representation of genre paintings concentrated around the middle of the seventeenth century.

Glaze

A transparent layer of paint applied to existing paint layers to enhance the colors or tones of the paint layers below.

Guild of Saint Luke

An early modern professional organization of artists, named after their patron saint, which served as the governing body for artists’ professional, social, and economic needs.

H

History painting

A type of painting that depicts scenes from Classical history, mythology, or the Bible.

I

Iconclass

Iconclass is a classification system pertaining to art and iconography, designed to describe and classify subjects, themes, and motifs represented in images. Learn more at http://www.iconclass.nl/home.

Iconography

The practice of analyzing and interpreting the images and symbols in a work of art.

Imprimatura

A layer of oil paint applied over the painting’s ground layer to establish tonality.

Infrared reflectography (IRR)

An image analysis method that uses a form of radiation to examine paint layers and underdrawings beneath the surface of a work of art. Substances such as black pigment and charcoal show particularly well through this technique, which aids scholars in determining changes in a painting’s composition not visible to the naked eye.

Inpainting

The application of paint to areas of loss in a painting in order to maintain the integrity of the original paint, color, and pattern.

L

Liefhebber (art lover)

A Dutch term used to describe seventeenth-century art connoisseurs, collectors, or amateurs, collectively known as “art lovers.”

Lining (painting conservation)

The application of a reinforcing layer of fabric to the back of an existing painting’s original (canvas) support, to mitigate deterioration over time.

M

Mahlstick (maulstick)

A thin, light piece of wood used by painters to support and steady the hand. In Michiel van Musscher’s Portrait of the Artist in His Studio (1673), a mahlstick and palette are visible in the painter’s left hand.

N

Naer het leven (from life)

A seventeenth-century Dutch term and concept that refers to the practice of working directly from life.

O

Oeuvre

An artist’s entire body of work.

Overpaint

The application of a layer of paint that covers original paint.

P

Palette knife

A thin, long, flexible, and blunt metal blade used to mix paint, to apply paint to canvas, or to scrape the surface for a desired stylistic effect.

Pendant (artwork)

A painting conceived as part of a pair. Pendant paintings in The Leiden Collection include Willem van Mieris’s Portrait of an Elegant Woman and Portrait of an Elegant Man (1708), and Pendant Portraits of Samuel van Acker and His Wife (?) (1683), and Michiel van Musscher's Portrait of Pieter Ranst Valckenier (1661–1704) and Eva Suzanna Pellicorne (1670–1732) (1687).

Pentimento

A change made by an artist to an existing area of a painting. These changes may become visible on the painting’s surface over time as a result of the increasing transparency of the paint layers.

Pigment

The elements in paint that give it color. In the seventeenth century, most pigments were derived from natural substances. Pigment is combined with a binding medium, like oil, to create paint.

Provenance (French: provenir, meaning “to come from”)

The history of an object’s ownership. Provenance seeks to establish a comprehensive list of owners of an artwork from its conception to the present day.

Q

Quartz

Silicone dioxide, the primary constituent of sand, which, in its powdered form, is used as a pigment in grounds for canvas.

R

Retouching

The application of paint to areas of loss in a painting in order to restore the artwork’s surface.

S

School of / circle of (painting)

A work of art identified as ascribing to the style of a known artist, whether executed by a student of that artist, or an independent master.

Scumbling

The application of opaque or semi-opaque dry paint to an existing surface, resulting in the modification of the colors below.

Sketching

The act of drawing to record a composition or to make preparatory studies.

T

Tacking margins

The border of the canvas wrapped around the stretcher and secured to the wood.

Tearing

Rips in canvas caused by deterioration and/or wear.

Transfer (support)

The removal and replacement of the original support of a painting.

Tronie

A seventeenth-century Dutch term that refers to the depiction of a highly individualized, anonymous figure, whether conceived as a study or an independent work of art. Often rendered from life, tronies represent a figure’s physical features, character, and emotion.

U

Ultraviolet light (examination)

Using this part of the light spectrum to analyze the paint or varnish’s level of fluorescence.

Underdrawing

A drawing executed on the ground layer of a painting.

Underpainting

The initial layer of paint applied to the ground layer that blocks in areas of the composition to establish values.

Uyt den gheest (from the mind, or imagination)

A seventeenth-century Dutch term and concept that refers to the practice of working from memory.

V

Vanitas

A term used to describe artworks depicting objects symbolic of the fleeting nature of life and the vanity of earthly pleasures, prompting viewers to consider their mortality.

Varnish

A transparent layer applied to oil paintings to protect them and provide a smooth, even finish.

W

Warping

Distortion in wood caused by instability.

Workshop of / studio of

A work of art identified as having been produced by a pupil or assistant in collaboration with, or independently from, the master of the workshop or studio.

X

X-radiography

A method of image analysis that uses a form of electromagnetic radiation to create a visual representation of parts of an image not visible to the naked eye. The absorption pattern can be used to analyze an artwork’s structure and the pigments used to create it. X-rays are particularly used to observe the artist’s application of lead white and lead-tin yellow.

– Alexa McCarthy and Lara Yeager-Crasselt

The following sources were consulted in creating this glossary: Ernst van de Wetering, “Glossary,” Rembrandt: The Painter at Work, rev. ed. (Amsterdam, 2009), 321–25; Arthur K. Wheelock Jr., ed., “Glossary of Technical Terms,” Dutch Paintings of the Seventeenth Century, NGA Online Editions (Washington, D.C., 2014), https://purl.org/nga/collection/catalogue/17th-century-dutch-paintings; David Bomford et al., Art in the Making: Rembrandt (London, 2006).

Scroll back to top