Cennino d’Andrea Cennini was an Italian painter in the 14th century. He worked in Florence and was inspired by Giotto
His book The Craftsman’s Handbook is a foundation corner in the history of the art of the Renaissance.
As an art student at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem in the 70ies, it was a surprisingly lovely practical text. I love to watch people working; thus, by reading his book, I could imagine how one creates paints, brushes, papers mostly from nature itself.
I imagined old Giotto climbing the mountains to find the right stone to grind for his paints.
The index makes me smile every time I read it as it is a nutshell of what it meant to be an artist in the Renaissance. How the craftsmanship was a crucial foundation for the creation of the alchemical artistic process, all the masters have left us.
When I was teaching art, I used to read a few lines from the index to my students. It served me as a tool to convey how art was perceived in the Renecanse and how it is different today.
For example, there is a chapter titled: “How to paint a dead man.”
It is vital knowledge as you need to know how to paint Jesus! It also indicates that there is a precise way to do that.
I invite Cennini to be a part of the imaginary Alexandrian Library I am reviving through pixels.
For you who are new to my art, I will share that I conduct an on-going art project trying to revive the Great Alexandrian library on-line.
I am adding to the pixel library fragments of what I think the scribes would have found valuable and copy as another scroll to the collection. I do this as a memorial notice for us not to do such harm again as to burn all the knowledge we have.
The scholars would have been very appreciative of Ceninie’s practical knowledge.
The Egyptians were deeply involved in materials to mummify the Pheroes, for papyrus making, for creating paints and jewelry, etc. They would probably try all his suggestions.
So now we can play a game and mix times and ask:
What would have happened to the Egyptian arts if they had Ceninie’s book?
In my mind and some help from my sand tray – I present Cenini’s book to the scholars of the Great Library to add to their shelves.
I sneak behind his back and add Lo Spirito Della Materia, I wrote with a colleague and humbly place it on the shelf.
We could not have written it without his text.
The Spirit of Matter and the Italian version Lo Spirito Della Materia can be found here.
The upper image is by Cennino Cennini, Beatified Bishop and Beatified Pope, Gemäldegalerie, Berlin