Art History Vocabulary Words

Contrapposto
The Classical convention of representing standing human figures with opposing alternations of tension and relaxation on each side of a central axis.
Allegory
In a work of art, an image (or images) that symbolizes an idea, concept, or principle, often suggesting a deeper meaning or moral message.
Trecento
the 14th century as a period of Italian art, architecture, or literature.
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Quattrocento
the 15th century as a period of Italian art or architecture.
Cinquecento
the 16th century as a period of Italian art or architecture.
Maesta
designates an iconic formula of the enthroned Madonna with the child Jesus, whether or not accompanied with angels and saints.
Madonna
the Virgin Mary.
a picture, statue, or medallion of the Madonna, typically depicted seated and holding the infant Jesus.
Pieta
a picture or sculpture of the Virgin Mary holding the dead body of Jesus Christ on her lap or in her arms.
Fresco
A painting technique in which water-based pigments are applied to a surface of wet plaster and are absorbed into it, becoming part of the wall itself
Lamentation
the passionate expression of grief or sorrow; weeping.
“scenes of lamentation”
synonyms:
Pointed Arch
an arch with a pointed crown, characteristic of Gothic architecture.
Aerial Perspective
the technique of representing more distant objects as fainter and more blue.
Mathematical Perspective
a type of perspective used by artists in which the relative size, shape, and position of objects are determined by drawn or imagined lines converging at a point on the horizon
Glazing
An outermost layer of vitreous liquid that, upon firing, renders ceramics waterproof, and forms a decorative surface. In painting, a technique particularly used with oil media in which a transparent layer of paint is laid over another, usually lighter, painted or glazed area. In architecture, the process and technique of filling openings in a building with windows of clear stained glass.
Diptych
a painting, especially an altarpiece, on two hinged wooden panels that may be closed like a book.
Triptych
a picture or relief carving on three panels, typically hinged together side by side and used as an altarpiece.
Polyptych
a painting, typically an altarpiece, consisting of more than three leaves or panels joined by hinges or folds.
Trompe l’oeil
visual illusion in art, especially as used to trick the eye into perceiving a painted detail as a three-dimensional object.
Chiaroscuro
the treatment of light and shade in drawing and painting.
Sfumato
Hazy, smoky visual effect on a painting
Altarpiece
a work of art, especially a painting on wood, set above and behind an altar.
Engraving
a print made from an engraved plate, block, or other surface.
Woodcuts
a print of a type made from a design cut in a block of wood, formerly widely used for illustrations in books.
Figura Serpentinata
a style in painting and sculpture that is typical of Mannerism. It is similar, but not identical, to contrapposto, and features figures often in a spiral pose. Early examples can be seen in the work of Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael and Michelangelo.
Memento Mori
an object serving as a warning or reminder of death, such as a skull.
Still Life
a painting or drawing of an arrangement of objects, typically including fruit and flowers and objects contrasting with these in texture, such as bowls and glassware.
Tenebrism
dramatic illumination, is a style of painting using very pronounced chiaroscuro, where there are violent contrasts of light and dark, and where darkness becomes a dominating feature of the image
Impasto
the process or technique of laying on paint or pigment thickly so that it stands out from a surface.
Pointillism
a technique of neo-impressionist painting using tiny dots of various pure colors, which become blended in the viewer’s eye. It was developed by Georges Seurat with the aim of producing a greater degree of luminosity and brilliance of color.
Plein Air Technique
French expression which means “in the open air” and is particularly used to describe the act of painting outdoors, which is also called peinture sur le motif (“painting of the object(s) or what the eye actually sees”) in French.
Collage
a piece of art made by sticking various different materials such as photographs and pieces of paper or fabric onto a backing.

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