Moorea Hall-Aquitania | The Spread of Coloured Grounds to the Netherlands, 1550-1650 | Overarching project: Down to the Ground: a historical, visual and scientific analysis of coloured grounds in Netherlandish paintings, 1550-1650 (funded by the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO)) | University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam School for Heritage, Memorial and Material Culture (AHM) | Prof. dr Erma Hermens, Dr Elmer Kolfin | August 2019-August 2023 | m.a.hallaquitania[at]uva.nl
Ground layers are applied to prepare supports for painting. Their colour has a profound influence on the painting methods and the visual characteristics of finished pictures. For centuries painters overwhelmingly used white grounds until, in the late 15th-century, coloured grounds originated in Italy, spreading North around 1550. Coloured grounds gave rise to a new way of painting, with an emphasis on tonality and chiaroscuro, culminating in many of the greatest Italian Baroque and Dutch Golden Age masterpieces. Currently we have no overview of the transfer mechanisms that influenced their successful spread to the Netherlands, the impact of coloured grounds on painting technique and visual effects, and the influence of advances in Early Modern optics and colour theory on their development.
My research combines approaches from technical art history, socioeconomic art history, and network theories to track the spread of coloured grounds to the Netherlands between 1550-1650. I will investigate the mechanisms and routes of knowledge transmission by gathering existing and new data on artistic networks, studio practices, and the application of coloured grounds. Contemporary sources from Italy and the Netherlands will be studied to establish the role of Early Modern colour theory and optics in the implementation of coloured grounds and its contribution to changing artistic practice. By using a large data set, hitherto unknown patterns and clusters will be recognised, providing new insights into knowledge transmission and allowing an evaluation of local and artistic variations over the course of a century.