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: 222
Detail of Christ’s face under magnification (20x).
Lightbox: 223
Detail of the bird’s head under magnification (16x). The red pigments in its beak and neck have degraded and darkened over time.

Emitting golden rays of light, Christ is shown at the centre of this image, surrounded by good angels clothed in white robes symbolising purity. Two good angels, armed with sword and spear, thrust out of heaven the bad, rebellious angels, causing them to tumble into the pit of Hell below. As they fall, the rebels are transformed into demons. Figures in the border include a seraph (six-winged angel), hybrid creatures and a bird.