There were two different methods of painting production that were popular in Renaissance Italy. The two areas of these methods were Florence and Venice.

Michelangelo, Study for Adam, 1510-1511, London, British Museum (image from British Museum)

The Florentine style was focused on the design of a work, called disegno. Artists would work first on separate paper or parchment to perfect their design before moving onto the canvas. Design was vital and drawing was the most important element for perfection. This idea started long before the High Renaissance because “the notion that drawing serves as a foundation for the arts of painting and sculpture had been expressed at least as early as Petrarch.”[1] Disegno was more than just for the perfection in painting but it was the staple for all areas of art in the Renaissance: painting, sculpture, and architecture. In Venice, however, design was not the area of style that focused on the most. It was color and the application of color that was important when creating nature on canvas, the goal for Renaissance artists.

Titian, detail of Rape of Europa, 1562, Boston, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum (Image From ARTstor)

Colorito in Italian is a verb meaning the application of color and the process of painting. The Venetians’ would draw directly on the canvas and create and change their design while painting. The artist “drew on the canvas with charcoal and paint rather than using the complicated drawing process” of the Florentines.[2] Venetians believed that coloring was the closest aspect of painting to nature. It was not disegno or “the muscular energy or movement of the figure…but the coloring – colorito – in all its variety and its blending is source of animation, of the pulse of life and likeness, in Venetian eyes.”[3]

The Venetians produced drawings but these artists did not generate as many drawings on paper as the Florentines, because they worked directly on the canvas. This method of work is what separates the two schools of Italian painting. Where the Florentines were planning and perfecting their design on paper, the Venetians were instead drawing directly on the canvas. They would alter their design whil painting, thus focusing on the brushwork and color that they were applying right onto the canvas. Titian was using an “empirical method, working his way through the design as it laid out on the primed canvas” which was a process he produced “slowly and carefully, always adjusting his forms and paint to achieve a premeditated effect and often strikingly original results.”[4]



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[1] Robert Williams, Art, Theory, and Culture in Sixteenth-Century Italy, (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1997), 16.

[2] Bruce Cole, Titian and Venetian Paintings: 1450-1590, (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1999), 70.

[3] Paul Hills, Venetian Colour: Marble, Mosaic, Painting and Glass 1250-1550, (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999), 216.

[4] Cole, Titian and Venetian Paintings: 1450-1590, 70.




I have seen this site with the information on Disegno vs. Colorito and would like to reference this material but I can see information for this, could you please help at all?

Doing Art History and a paper on Titian,s Venus Anadyomene

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