Leonardo Da Vinci and his Micro-Brushes

Long overdue, but there it is. Apparently, the paintings done by Leonardo da Vinci cannot be faked by no artist of today. No matter how talented the artists of today are, not a single one of them is able to create a painting of the same quality. I am not even talking about making a copy of Mona Lisa here. None of the today's masters are capable of applying paint in a manner allegedly done by Mr. da Vinci.
  • Note: with a paint brush they can't.

No Brush Strokes aka Sfumato
You have to give TPTB some credit. They are so good with making stuff up, it's almost impossible to catch them at it. In its approach, this Sfumato thing is a carbon copy of the Olber's Paradox. Obviously these are two totally different areas, but the instrument of BS production is the same.


Anyways, what is Sfumato? Prepare for a load of baloney!
  • Sfumato is a painting technique for softening the transition between colours, mimicking an area beyond what the human eye is focusing on, or the out-of-focus plane. Leonardo da Vinci was the most prominent practitioner of sfumato, based on his research in optics and human vision, and his experimentation with the camera obscura.
  • The visual result of the technique is that there are no harsh outlines present (as in a coloring book). Instead, areas of dark and light blend into one another through miniscule brushstrokes, making for a rather hazy, albeit more realistic, depiction of light and color.
  • According to the art historian Giorgio Vasari (1511–1574), the technique was first invented by the Primitive Flemish school, including perhaps Jan Van Eyck and Rogier Van Der Weyden.
  • According to the theory of the art historian Marcia B. Hall, which has gained considerable acceptance, sfumato is one of four modes of painting colours available to Italian High Renaissance painters, along with cangiante, chiaroscuro and unione.
  • The word "sfumato" comes from the Italian language and is derived from "fumo" (smoke, fume). "Sfumato" translated into English means soft, vague or blurred.
  • The technique is a fine shading meant to produce a soft transition between colours and tones, in order to achieve a more believable image. It is most often used by making subtle gradations that do not include lines or borders, from areas of light to areas of dark. The technique was used not only to give an elusive and illusionistic rendering of the human face but also to create rich atmospheric effects.
    • Leonardo da Vinci described the technique as blending colours, without the use of lines or borders "in the manner of smoke".
  • Besides Leonardo and his followers the Leonardeschi, who often used it heavily, other prominent practitioners of sfumato included Correggio, Raphael and Giorgione. Raphael's Madonna of the Meadow is a famous example, particularly around Mary's face. The Leonardeschi include Bernardino Luini and Funisi.
Sfumato Translated
Without the descriptive layers of the above BS explanation, this "Sfumato" is just a magnificently creative way to cloud the readers judgement. The short and concise version of the above sounds like this - NO BRUSH STROKES CAN BE OBSERVED.
  • And jumping ahead, I can tell you what does not have any brush strokes. That would be my color printer, or my paint sprayer.​

And while the above is a bit far-fetched, the paint application methods used by printers and sprayers are probably not far off, from what we see in these Sfumato paintings. Of course, TPTB can not say that there are no brush strokes. Therefore they had to introduce the following:
  • M. Franck, consultant scholar at the Armand Hammer Centre for Leonardo Studies in Los Angeles, believes that the Mona Lisa was painted in hundreds of sessions with a technique of ultra-fine hatching - or criss-crossing of brush strokes - some as tiny as one-fortieth of a millimetre long.
  • He says layers of extremely diluted oil paint were piled up on one another over many years - using perhaps 30 "coats" of paint in all.
  • For his finer work, Leonardo probably painted with a brush in one hand and a magnifying glass in the other.
  • It was through this method, M. Franck says, that Da Vinci achieved the sublime effects which astonished and irritated fellow Italian painters at the time and have puzzled art historians ever since.
So there we have it: miniscule 1/40th of a millimeter brush strokes, magnifying glass and 30 coats of paint.

Show me the Brush!
1/40th of a millimeter = 25 micrometers
So, what exactly is 1/40th of a millimeter aka 0.025 mm, or 25 micrometers? Not like we are dealing with sizes like this in our everyday life. Let's translate this into something we are familiar with - a human hair.
  • Our genetic make-up decides whether we have thick or thin hair. Europeans considerhair with a diameter of:​
    • 0.04 to 0.06 mm as thin - 40 to 60 micrometers
    • 0.06 and 0.08 mm as normal - 60 to 80 micrometers
    • 0.08 and 0.1 mm as thick - 80 to 100 micrometers
  • da Vinci's brush strokes:
    • 0.025 mm - 25 micrometers
How Small Is One Micrometer?
The smallest particles we can see with our eyes are those that are larger than 50 micrometers, such as the larger specks of dust collected on our furniture. To give you an idea of how small micrometer-sized particles are, waste matter from dust mites is about 5 micrometers in size, while a strand of hair is about 100 to 150 micrometers wide.


By the way, did you know a single dust mite produces about 20 waste droppings each day? For us it means the below:
  • 5 dust mite shit piles placed in a row = 1 brush stroke of Leonardo da Vinci
Paint Layers
How did Leonardo Da Vinci manage to paint such perfect faces? For the first time a quantitative chemical analysis has been done on seven paintings from the Louvre Museum (including the Mona Lisa) without extracting any samples.
  • This shows the composition and thickness of each layer of material laid down by the painter. The results reveal that, in the case of glazes, thin layers of 1 to 2 micrometers have been applied.

Specialists from the Center for Research and Restoration of the Museums of France found that da Vinci painted up to 30 layers of paint on his works to meet his standards of subtlety. Added up, all the layers are less than 40 micrometers, or about half the thickness of a human hair.

μm = micrometer
Coating Layers.JPG
This is an extreme closeup scan of a paint chip retrieved from the ruins of Belmont Art Park. The fragment is about 10 millimeters thick, and appears to consist of about 150-200 layers of paint.
  • For a sense of scale, note the ridges of a fingerprint in the lower right.
  • Source
  • 10 millimeters = 10,000 micrometers
  • da Vinci could fit 7,500 layers into 10 millimeters
  • da Vinci's 200 layers would be 266 micrometers aka 0.266 millimeters thick
  • ~1/4 of a dust mite shit pile width = 1 paint layer of Leonardo da Vinci
Mortars & Pestles
Leonardo da Vinci typically painted with oil paint that he made by hand from ground pigments; later in his career, he worked with tempera made from egg whites. There it says it - "oil paint made by hand". What did they use in between 1452 and 1519 to grind things? Yup, they used mortars and pestles. Let's google image search for those 16th century mortar and pestles. We end up with something like this.


Oil paints are made up of pigment that has been ground into an oil base, called the vehicle or binder. The most commonly used vehicle is cold-pressed linseed oil, however, it can be made with walnut oil, poppy seed oil, safflower oil or other less popular oils.
  • The pigment is where paint gets its color. A paint color gets its name from the pigment that is used. We first got our pigments from the earth in the form of rocks or powder, but now it is also manufactured from synthetic materials. Some of the oldest pigments known to man are made from colored earth like Yellow Ochre, Sienna and Umber. Other pigments are derived from mineral salts such as White Oxide.

In other words, to achieve a layer sickness of 1.33 micrometers, not a single particle can be larger that these 1.33 micrometers. Let us see what 21st century automated grinding machine can offer.

MP-1000 Mortar & Pestle Grinder
The MP-1000 is an automatic mortar & pestle grinder that is used to grind and homogenize a wide range of samples in a dry or wet state. It is highly effective for samples that are oily or pasty and offers good flexibility with respect to batch size, accommodating small or large sample quantities. The MP-1000 is especially well suited for applications with temperature sensitive samples, as it generates very little heat.

Pretty sure it could be possible to grind random pigment particles to a pretty small size, but to suggest that every single one of those would be under the required standard... highly questionable to say the least. Imho, it's just impossible with hand tools and whatever other tools traditionally available in the early 1600s.

KD: Remember, the technique was first invented by the Primitive Flemish school, and it was used by quite a few artists of the same generation. TPTB can label stuff all day long with catchy things like "Primitive Flemish" and "Sfumato". I think it is fairly obvious, that certain things are impossible to create by hand and eyesight only. It appears that we are talking about the lost technology here, which has nothing to do with micro-brushes, and minuscule strokes.

Well this is a bit spooky, the resemblance of these pics to the A I "translations" of these types of images is something that maybe needs a bit of discussion!

Also might explain why these "paintings" or "brush strokes" can't be replicated, because they are not!

Good stuff KD, this is how I addressed this issue in my book The Obfuscation of Photography.

I cannot verify the likeness to a photograph of the work of Da Vinci as I have not seen one with my own eyes, but from the descriptions of a Sfumato painting, which I have read, both aesthetically and technically, I believe people are describing a photograph, similar to those of a traditional paper photographs in appearance and chemical composition.

It further occurs to me, that perhaps this ‘use of colour’ is the very same process employed by della Porta in his works Natural Magic. Della Porta explains a process of ‘painting’, which you can utilise if you ‘only know how to take the colours’ but do not have the skill to paint (della Porta 1558). This leads me to consider; is Sfumato a lost art, or a hidden photographic process? The process caused by a soft focusing lens purposely causes the softening of light falling on the image. To me, this is how this Sfumato appears. The mirror camera I re - invented also causes the same effect.

This word Sfumato, used to describe Da Vinci’s process, first appears in literature around the year 1800 (google Ngram viewer).

If this was a technique used and ‘invented’ by Da Vinci, surely this technique and word for it would have appeared somewhere in literature prior to 1800? Further, Sfumato is only a theoretical idea. The process of which some believe they have uncovered the secrets of its contents and construction (Elias et al 2008)

However, if no artist alive is able to reproduce this style of creation, how then, can we believe in Da Vinci’s Sfumato technique? It seems to me, that this is another one of those ‘lost techniques ‘that the art world claims to know all about, yet humans have simply ‘forgotten’ how to achieve them. It becomes very convenient for art historians to postulate techniques and ideas yet to present zero poof of their existence.

I postulate that Sfumato is likely to be unachievable today, because in reality it was never a ‘painting’ technique to begin with. I would suggest the translation of Sfumato as; Italian language and is derived from fumo ("smoke", "fume") (Esaak, 2019). Sfumato translated into English means soft, vague or blurred (Linguee 2020). In my mind, the word Sfumato could be construed as meaning to hide, obscure, a smoke screen to hide the truth.

I further suggest the word was invented much later than Da Vinci’s lifetime, as a means to obfuscate the truth of the process, in that Da Vinci was in fact creating photographs, not paintings. Perhaps, during this time, other artists and chemists were coming close to discovering this secret, and had to be deterred from making it a popular, easy to repeat process of ‘real’ image making. This ‘Sfumato’ process attributed to Da Vinci et al, certainly, in my opinion, provides further irrefutable evidence of photographic capabilities in the fifteenth century.

In short, I believe, 19th Century art historians, invented the impossible technique and the term of ‘Sfumato’ to disguise a known photographic process.
When one searches for the direct translation of "Sfumato" via google translate and duck duck go's translator, sfumato translates as "vanished." This was the same translation that was provided to me in my younger years during my art history classes. I was told, and believed at the time, that they were referring to the "vanishing" of the brush strokes through the technique. I now believe that this could be a direct disclosure letting us know this was done with a "vanished" technology. TPTB like to dangle the truth in front of our eyes and assume we will never see it.
I don't have the answer and one can certainly smell something fishy, but I have a theory.
Possibly this was a form of photography in which they did not have film, as we know it, that could change color when exposed to light. Instead they used something like a laser printer as you have suggested above, that could 'see' the image, determine shades and colors and then paint it using precise sprayers. This would involve some sort of computer, though.
As far as Da Vinci with a magnifying glass and a paint brush, its not just being able to see the work but to be able to hold the paint brush steady enough to create those incredibly tiny strokes. His steadiness of hand would have to put all the surgeons of today to shame.
Maybe you hit it on the nose with the dust mites; he fed them his paint and trained them to shit in just the right spots!
I believe the process intentional utilized the properties similar to those see moiré patterns.
I have studied color perception, human vision, and stereopsis quite extensively and let me tell you...there is a LOT of details that elude common knowledge—possibly because certain types of knowledge (or processes) have the tendency to lead one to the realization of characteristics in another domain of study. Ie. Knowledge of how these brush strokes are created would lead one to a more profound awareness of how waves propagate and scale.
Basically if you wanted to make an impossibly small pattern, you could make a larger pattern in a very particular way, then apply another layer which would cause a “differencing effect” the rivalry of two patterns causes the appearance of an entirely new pattern. X/Y=abcdefg kinda scenario, you ended up with far more detail than you started with because the nature in which those two wave forms (in that specific medium) at that specific scale play out or result in a more tessellated or fractalized appearance.

the idea of a photographic or semi photographic process also seems interesting. The older techniques with silver and other metals could produce far more detail than modern Digital Sensors because of scale at which the chemicals work is so minuscule. Perhaps he had some method of diffusing initially basic lines or area of color (which again is similar to what I stated above, albeit more reliant on chemical processes to ‘etch the detail’ as opposed to the artifacts of scale and pattern seen in moiré effects).
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