View Full Version : La Bella Principessa

10-17-2013, 09:44 AM
This is a master copy of Leonardo's. His original is chalk and ink on vellum (cow, sheep or goat skin - which I did not have), so I used earth red, brown, yellow ochre, black and white chalk on Canson Yellow Ochre paper. It is 33 x 24cm, the same size as the original. I have never worked in colored charcoal or chalk before, and I had a really fun time working on this, trying out this medium. I hope I am posting in the right forum? Please crit - hard crits welcome. Any basics of this medium also welcome - for example I found out along the way that I should have covered the paper with more color 1st, rubbed with a finger, to avoid pinholes.


This is a portrait of Bianca, the illegitimate daughter of the powerful Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan. Bianca was married at age 13, in about 1495. This drawing was originally in her marriage book, until it was torn out centuries ago. The drawing resurfaced in 1998, at Christies auction house, and labeled as a German work from the early 19th century, and was sold for a little less than $22,000 dollars. It is now owned by Peter Silverman, thought to be the work of Leonardo Da Vinci, and kept in an undisclosed vault in Switzerland.

You can read the full story here: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/tech/mystery-masterpiece.html
The original drawing - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Portrait_of_a_Young_Fiancée
and a color restored image of how the painting may have looked at the time, before yellowing with age - http://broidermebethan.blogspot.dk/2013_01_01_archive.html

10-17-2013, 10:27 AM
Hi, AllisonR! Welcome to perpetually dirty fingertips! Pastel is my favorite medium. You have done very well with this. There are many ways to handle the medium, so experimenting is always good!

You asked for hard crit, but your master copy is very nice. One thing you might do is trace the profile of both the original and your copy and lay one over the other. I think you might find that the profile is slightly off: the original shows a bit of an overbite in the mouth, the nose is slightly longer with a bit higher bridge, and the forehead is higher and a bit straighter.

That said, doing master copies is not a simple as it sounds at first blush . . . I have not nailed one yet! It is, however, a great way to learn. and again, welcome to a wonderful medium. And yes, with pastels you can tone the paper, do an underpainting, and save the finer strokes for just the details. I can not tell for sure, but it appears you used the smooth side of the Canson (MiTientes?) which does yield a less textured image. You can also use a blending stump, chamois, soft cloth, various erasers, solvents (including alcohol) on certain papers and other surfaces, brushes, and almost anything else that will move pigment. Richard McKinley often uses a cut up piece of pipe insulation as described in this W/C discussion: http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1310218 And some do not blend at all!

(http://www.wetcanvas.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1310218)Enjoy making dust! :thumbsup: You are off to a great start!

10-17-2013, 02:54 PM

your first work with dry pigments ?
get outta town !
it's ***** !!!

if you used canson mi-tentes , there's no sign of a ' honeycomb ' surface/texture ,
so you used the ' smooth ' side of the paper which has open/loose fibers
which can only be seen with magnification , but holds pastel crystals reasonably well .
> there is a historical connection to the way that pastel sticks were made
and how some papers were formulated to hold the crystals
and allow for additional strokes ,
as long as the touch is not so hard as to compress the fibers so ,
ASL's suggestions for disbursing pigment are well said .
however , canson mt is not a watercolour paper , so ,
moisture can result in buckles after it dries ,
but can be dry-mounted on a rigid material such as foam-core
to eliminate that problem without compromising the fibers/'tooth' .

too much info ? :evil:


ps. when one really likes pastel , and on a budget ,
the tech stuff is a more bigger deal . :D

10-17-2013, 03:49 PM
WOW! (Well, I think, without going to the links) It's very well done.

10-17-2013, 06:16 PM
I'm impressed. Pam:wave:

10-21-2013, 08:30 AM
ASL thanks for the detailed crits. Yes, I agree distance from nose to lip is too short, though it is a tiny better by adding the correct highlight above her lip, makes it look longer. Forehead is too short and space between eyes and hair also too short. I "erased" some of the hair, which helps a little, but not much. Her nose and lips will never be as elegant as Leonardo, that's why he is Leonardo and I am only me. Fixed the shadows. Added highlights to hair thing.

Thanks for that link about different blending techniques, that was very helpful. Yes, I used my finger but next time I will try the other methods.

Ed, not too much info. Good to know the properties of materials we use.

And now I have to tell you the terrible thing that happened. I had made all corrections, and totally reworked the background, and made all the skin more delicately blended. I was very happy with it. Then I put fixative on it. FIXATIVE RUINED THE WHOLE DRAWING! I will never ever use it again. It made everything about 20 percent darker. All highlights were gone, no highlights on skin, no golden hairs, everything was dark or darker. And the skin actually turned more rough, not smoth and delicate. So I read a lot of posts and found out this is a very common problem with fixative, and why many artists do not use any at all, and as soon as they are done just mount behind glass. Those that do use a very good fixative, like Lascoux and only very very lightly and maybe only if the paper can not take any more pastel.

So I spent another day sort of fixing it, but it is not as good as it was before the fixative. My heart isn't in it, and even though I am disciplined, it shows. And I don't even have a photo of how it was. Now I am stopping, because every time I look at it I remember how it was and it makes me sad.


10-21-2013, 09:19 AM
I love the way you've rendered this! I think it must be very hard to make copies of Master's works but a great learning experience. So sorry to hear about the dreaded fixative! I never use it now. I do have some spectrafix (if it hasn't all evaporated by now) but even with that I have not had good results, mainly because it is so hard to get it to spray evenly.

10-21-2013, 01:30 PM
I am so sorry about your fixative experience! It didn't occur to me to discuss fixative, as your pastels did not look like you had applied them heavily. I never use the stuff, as your experience is common . . . happens to many of us the first and last time we use it! I apply pastel much heavier, but when I am done I just knock off the excess with a couple of good gentle 'wacks' on the back and call it fixed.

I store unframed pastels between sheets of glassine in flat files. When I frame them I use spacers so the glass never touches the surface. There is an artist out there that has started a trend of varnishing pastels so they don't require glass, but that pretty much eliminates what I love about the medium -- the tiny bits of pigment that catch the light and reflect it back at us in a luminous sort of way. There are some sanded surfaces that hold the pastel pigment so well fixing them isn't even considered an issue. Again, you have a world of experimenting ahead of you!