After discussing verdaccios with a friend I thought it would be instructive to actually try one. I found this image of a detail from Mantegna’s Il Parnasso, and made a 16″ x 12″ panel for it.

I had in mind to work up a fully realized underpainting in a low-chroma yellow, 5Y 2nd chroma. This color produced a beautiful tonal effect, not only lower in chroma and one hue group away from human skin tones.

I was looking forward to laying in YR skin tones over the Y underpainting. But first I had to decide how closely the drawing I did should follow the original. There were unresolved areas, missing line, and mistakes such as the collar bone/neck area. Once I began drawing, though, that question got answered for me, as I couldn’t draw like A.M. So, since my drawing was coming out as if I were drawing I decided to work out some of the issues in the original, some, but not all.

There were decisions to be made regarding color as well. The original is quite yellow, and up close it is obvious the painting has suffered from some poor repainting. At first I thought I’d paint the skin the colors I know skin to be, but changed my mind today and worked with the yellow skin colors.

I’m curious if others:

Try to make an exact copy, including mistakes?
Override what they see with what they know?
Can mimic the line quality of another artist?
Do any of these studies?
If so, what is the purpose, to learn as much as possible or follow the original as much as possible?

For what it’s worth, I think this is a great way to try out new techniques such as different methods of underpainting, new mediums, substrates, etc. I am thinking about developing a study course for my students based on making a fully-realized copy of a master’s work. This would bring all the elements necessary, drawing, color, form development, brushwork, edges, etc.

If anyone has any ideas on that I’d like to hear them as well. Here are three images, the underpainting, the piece as it stands today, and the reference I am working from. The piece is only half-finished, with much more information to be added.