Girolamo Savoldo and Fifty Shades of Grey

ash, ashen, cinereal, clouded, dappled, dingy dove, drab dusky, dusty, grey, heather,iron, lead, leaden, livid, mousy, neutral, oyster, pearly, peppery, powder, sere, shaded,silvered, silvery, slate, smoky, somber, stone 

The first thing to be said here is that ‘grey’ is the English spelling which we Canadians favour – whereas ‘gray’ is the Americanization of same, a transmutation linked to liberty, one imagines.

The terms for grey (above) are all the ready synonyms I could find – none of which quite adequately describe the peculiar characteristics of grey/silver pigments that have come to us via the little-regarded but superlative painter Girolamo Savoldo.  Savoldo, who died in 1548,  came from Brescia and worked for most of his career in Venice, where he soaked up the vast vocabulary of colours known to his Venetian counterparts.  Somehow, though, Savoldo transformed those colours, particularly the greys, through tricks of light and luminous textural bravura that would not be seen again until van Dyck reinvented grey in the Baroque period. Subtle silver transitions from pale lavender/purple/smoky slates to burning, white-marbled highlights.  I give you two examples of Savoldo’s smouldering, shimmering, waterfalls of grey –  the Magdalene, and the Angel and Tobias –

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About hickson1

Art historian, professor, Italian Renaissance and Baroque specialist
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