Art of All Colours: Mediaeval Recipe Books for Painters and Illuminators, The

Mark Clarke

UK Price: £29.50 US Price: $50.00

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ISBN: 1873132727
Binding: Paperback
Dimensions: 246 x 175 mm
Pages: 158

Much was written in mediaeval times concerning the preparation and use of artists' materials, and we are fortunate that many of these manuscripts survive. They vary from lengthy treatises to a few lines scribbled in a margin, and from the accurate and practical to the purely literary. These sources have been used for many years by art historians, practising artists, conservators and restorers as guides to the techniques of medieval artists and artisans.

This book explores the history and interpretation of mediaeval technical treatises on the arts. It examines the nature, variety and content of sources from the earliest times to AD 1500, and the relationship between what was written and what was practised. The author seeks to answer questions about how and why the texts were compiled, as well as why they sometimes seem obscure. The book lays out distinctions between practical and alchemical texts and highlights the problems of technical terminology.

Finally, this book contains a catalogue of more than 400 manuscripts that contain such technical texts, many of them largely unknown. These lesser known texts expand our understanding of medieval painting across a wider range of techniques, countries and centuries than those covered by the few well-known treatises such as Cennino Cennini's Craftsman's Handbook and Theophilus's On Divers Arts. Detailed descriptions and extracts are given for the more important texts, and a full bibliography of published editions and translations is included.

A valuable source for all those interested in the techniques and practices of medieval artists.

...The Art of All Colours is...a perfect tool, valuable for all scholars of mediaeval craftsmanship.
Studies in Conservation 46 (2001) 304

...the sheer usefulness of [Mark Clarke's] index will soon earn his volume an appreciative audience of scholars in the field of manuscript production and other areas of medieval painting.
CAA Reviews, College Art Association online (2002)

Clearly the author's intent with The Art of All Colours is to create as thorough and useful a reference as possible, beyond the standard books most people are familiar with and that form the usual starting point for the study of medieval techniques and materials. The impressive amount of research is apparent to anyone who opens the book and could scarcely be duplicated by any but the most determined scholar....The material should be a great resource for conservators, conservation scientists, art historians, and artists looking to learn more about materials and techniques of the period.
Journal of the American Institute for Conservation 41(3) (2002) 291-292

Clarke's excellent and well-structured inventory clearly fills a gap. Archeologists, historians of art, historians of culture, artists, restorers, and even philologists all have a great interest in, and need for, a list of manuscript sources in this field. Many references were already available, of course, but until Clarke's book they were scattered among numerous reference works, which made tracing them time consuming.
AMBIX 52(1) (March 2005) 89-90