Detail of the face of Mona Lisa showing the use of sfumato, particularly in the shading around the eyes.

Sfumato (Italian: , English ) is one of the four canonical painting modes of Renaissance art (alongside cangiante, chiaroscuro, and unione).[1]


  • The word sfumato 1
  • Leonardo da Vinci and other practitioners 2
  • Notes 3
  • External links 4

The word sfumato

The word "sfumato" comes from the Italian language and is derived from "fumo" (smoke, fume). "Sfumato" translated into English means soft, vague or blurred. In Italian the word is often used as adjective (like "biondo sfumato" for pale blonde hair) or as verb ("l'affare è sfumato" would mean the deal has gone up in smoke).

Leonardo da Vinci and other practitioners

Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) became the most prominent practitioner of sfumato - his famous painting of the Mona Lisa exhibits the technique. Leonardo da Vinci described sfumato as "without lines or borders, in the manner of smoke or beyond the focus plane".[2]

Apart from Leonardo, other prominent practitioners of sfumato included Leonardeschi) also tried their hands at sfumato after Leonardo: artists such as Bernardino Luini and Funisi.[3]


  1. ^ Hall, Marcia (1994). Color and Meaning: Practice and Theory in Renaissance Painting. Cambridge University Press.  
  2. ^ Earls, Irene (1987). Renaissance Art: A Topical Dictionary. Greenwood Press. p. 263.  
  3. ^ "Sfumato". Art Painting Artist. 

External links

  • Leonardo da Vinci: anatomical drawings from the Royal Library, Windsor Castle, exhibition catalog fully online as PDF from The Metropolitan Museum of Art, which contains material on this technique (see index)