Jean Corbechon, Livre des propriétés des choses

Painting the flesh

Artists' Techniques

The Mazarine Master applied flesh tones over a light pink base layer, containing lead white and variable quantities of vermilion. He used a range of earth pigments to delineate shadows, and short parallel strokes of vermilion red to define noses, cheeks and mouths, and often eyebrows and foreheads. Facial features were further outlined in brown or black.

Lightbox: 218
Detail of Adam’s face under magnification (20x).
Lightbox: 219
Detail of God’s face under magnification (20x).
Lightbox: 220
Detail of Eve’s face under magnification (20x).
Lightbox: 221
Detail of an unfinished bird under magnification (7.5x). The artist sketched the outline of the bird but never painted it in.

Dressed in a bright blue robe and crowned with a papal tiara, God presents Eve to Adam in the Garden of Eden, before an audience of angels and animals, including a mythical unicorn. Three six-winged seraphim, angels at the top of the heavenly hierarchy, hover in the sky above. It was thought that the term ‘seraphim’ meant burning or fiery, which explains why these angels are painted red.