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

Sfumato (Italian: [sfuˈmaːto], English /sfˈmɑːt/) is one of the four canonical painting modes of the Renaissance (the other three being Cangiante, Chiaroscuro, and Unione).[1] Sfumato comes from the Italian "sfumare", “to tone down” or “to evaporate like smoke”.

The most prominent practitioner of sfumato was Leonardo da Vinci, and 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 were Correggio, Raphael and Giorgione. Among the students and followers of Leonardo (called Leonardeschi) who tried their hands at Sfumato after Leonardo were Bernardino Luini and Funisi.[3]


  1. ^ Hall, Marcia (1994). Color and Meaning: Practice and Theory in Renaissance Painting. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0-521-45733-0. 
  2. ^ Earls, Irene (1987). Renaissance Art: A Topical Dictionary. Greenwood Press. p. 263. ISBN 0-313-24658-0. 
  3. ^ "Sfumato". Art Painting Artist. 

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