Direction, Moods, and Shades

During the Italian Renaissance, lapis lazuli was alluring not only for the intensity of its pigment but also for its rarity and high price. Extracting the ultramarine pigment is a lengthy and complex process that was developed in the thirteenth century, and involves combining the ground stone with wax, oils, and resins before wrapping the mixture in cloth and placing it in another chemical solution. A conspicuous and striking sign of wealth, lapis lazuli was used in Giotto’s fresco cycle in the Scrovegni Chapel, a private chapel for a moneylender of the time.

Thin layers of light-upon-dark glaze form the main figure of Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy, the silken folds and creases a reference to the artist’s admiration for van Dyck. Gainsborough had studied the Flemish artist’s techniques, gestures, and colors, and applied them to his own portraits, perhaps, as a response to Joshua Reynolds’ subversive criticism of his work.

Blue dress by BCBG Max Azria • Blue Star by Joan MiroModern Blue Vase

Brian Skerry. Underwater photograpy • Fashion by Oscar de la Renta

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