Dear experts! I am an amateur painter interested in other’s works. When I look at portraits by Botticelli, I do not understand what do I see. My guess is that nowadays his paintings are very different from what was intended. So, I have several questions. For example, let’s consider his Portrait of a Young Man (Washington).
1. What do I see at the edges of paint flakes divided by craquelure? I think that when the ground layer cracked, separate flakes slightly curved and their edges raised. Next, paint near edges of flakes was abraded during handling and cleaning of the painting, upper layers of paint were stripped. So at the edges near minuscule cracks I see lower paint layers. Is this correct?
2. How transitions between light and dark parts of the face were applied, particularly at the nose and cheek? I see darker spots of paint without clearly defined edges. They appear to be spatially oriented as if they are parts of longer brush strokes. What causes this interrupted appearance? Are they a result of paint abrasion? Or his panel was grounded with some texture and we see an effect similar to watercolour granulation on rough paper?
3. Opening the image in GIMP and using a CIELch colour picker reveals complex variations of hues, particularly at skin areas. How such variability was achieved? In my understanding of egg tempera technique, a painter mixes pigments in raw state, grinds them on a stone with binder and puts resulting paints in dishes. Without mixing on a palette since tempera dries fast. I have several guesses, but what is correct? Perhaps, many pigment mixtures were composed in raw state? Or he composed just a few pigment mixtures and applied them in several very thin layers of varying density? Or he used tempera grassa which dries slower and mixed it on a palette like oil paints? Or the painting was heavily overpainted during many conservation efforts and we see a result of using slightly different pigment mixtures by restorers? This is certainly the case near some major cracks and scratches, but to what extent other areas are overpainted?
4. Is there a darker layer of paint under light areas of the skin? Or lighter parts were painted straight on a white ground with some sketch made with dark coloured lines? I guess I see darker underlayer in a lower left corner of his neck near the fur collar.
5. What happened with some hairs of the left eyebrow (model’s right eyebrow)? I see crisp lines of dark coloured paint but a couple of lines are very dim. Were they abraded? Or they are parts of preliminary drawing covered by subsequent paint layers?
6. The overall skin color is very yellow, about 1/3 more yellow than a real skin color of a Caucasian man could potentially be - I am judging by CIELab colour coordinates and limits given in an article by A. Chardon «Skin colour typology and suntanning pathways». I wonder is this a result of binder or varnish yellowing? Or an artistic choice to make it look more saturated?
7. The color of his fancy hat is puzzling. Too orange for an ordinary cinnabar. I guess its color is an effect of particle size - somewhere I’ve heard that very finely ground cinnabar turns almost to carrot-orange. Or is it a result of fine glaze applied atop of cinnabar? Or another pigment was used too, like realgar or orpiment?
I would be grateful if you’ll share your opinions and point me towards research papers to read. Thank you.