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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 Renaissance art (alongside cangiante, chiaroscuro, and unione).[1] The word sfumato comes from the Italian sfumare, "to tone down" or "to evaporate like smoke".

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 Correggio, Raphael and Giorgione. Students and followers of Leonardo (called 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. 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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