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Art Glossary: Sfumato

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Definition:

Sfumato is a painting technique in which the colors blend softly into each other, rather than objects or shapes having sharp outlines or hard edges.

The Italian word sfumato, means shaded off 1 and comes from the Italian word fumo, which means "smoke"2. No surprises then that it's been referred to as a smoky effect.

Leonardo da Vinci liked to use sfumato, the Mona Lisa probably being the most-quoted example.

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References:
1. Collins English Dictionary, Third Edition.
2. The Oxford Companion to Western Art, edited by Hugh Brigstocke, Oxford University Press 2001.

Pronunciation: sfu-ma-toe

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