Artibus et Historiae no. 18 (IX)1988, ISSN 0391-9064
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FREDRIKA H. JACOBS - An Assessment of Contour Line: Vasari, Cellini and the Paragone
Giorgio Vasari and Benvenuto Cellini were two of the most articulate and opinionated artists of the mid-sixteenth century. As participants in the paragone debates of 1547 / 48 and 1564, they argued eloquently for the superiority of their respective arts: painting and sculpture. In their other writings they discussed with technical acumen the application of theoretical ideas to the practice of making art. Surprisingly, the techniques they recommended and praised in their essays on l'arte del disegnare were not the methods they practiced in their ownhandling of line. According to Cellini the "bellissimo modo di disegnare" is a contour drawing that has been modelled "as in paintings". But pictorial passages in Cellini's two known finished drawings are overwhelmed by schematic hatchings and an insistence on contour line, thus creating a drawing that is not unlike schiacciato relief. Vasari assumes a position that is squarely opposite to that of Cellini. He designates a contour drawing as "the most masterful" use of the medium but, regardless of his stated preference for purely linear works, he typically modeled his drawings in the manner recommended by Cellini. Vasari's drawings are rendered "as [...] paintings." When Vasari and Cellini apply the practical value of l'arte del disegnare to bozzetti, their opposing positions on the paragone are made abundantly clear.