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David Edward Keen

Is this chiaroscuro?

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I suppose it vaguely could be considered chiaroscuro but generally the point is to use strong contrast in lighting to create a three-dimensional effect where the subject pops out in relief often against a darker background. In this case, if the subject is your face, it does not have a strong three-dimensional effect due to the light bringing you forward of the background, instead you sort of recede and there is sort of a flatness. But it does have a pervading feeling of darkness, just not a dark background, so it is semi-chiaroscuro.

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Try A Philosopher Giving that Lecture on an Orrery, in which a Lamp is put in the Place of the Sun, or The Blacksmith's Shop, by Joseph Wright of Derby.

Edited by Mark Dunn

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How isn't it? Im actually looking for an understanding of what is considered chiaroscuro in art


Chiaroscuro is 'light/shadow' or 'light/dark' and is used to create a 3-d effect, beyond simple perspective, as well as adding 'drama'. Your referenced image appears to be more of a silhouette than an example of chiaroscuro.


In the early modern era, painters developed 3-d perspective drawing, but in general the 'light' was often 'flat', without much contrast.


By the mid 1500s, for portraits, one finds heavier use of shadow to give a 3-d effect, when the portrait would not otherwise have significant 'perspective' to cue the 3-d effect.


For example, ca 1480s Memling Portrait





About 100 years later a Bronzino portrait ca. 1541




And another 100 years... 1660 Rembrandt



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