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In Italian the word for paper is carta and the suffix “–one” means large, the “cartone” was a very large sheet of paper.  These cartone or cartoons as we have come to call them were specifically: large and very detailed drawings used to create paintings and frescoes.  These differed from sketches or studies in that they were the same size as the intended painting and were created to transfer the image.

The drawings were made to transfer the images to the painting surface in one of two ways.  In the first the cartoon acted as a type of stencil, thousands of small holes pricked the edges of each line and a bag of charcoal dust was “pounced” upon the cartoon.  In the second the cartoon acted as carbon paper, the back of the image was coated with charcoal dust and the image was carefully traced.  Since either process was messy and damaged the original paper, very few of these survive.  Those that remain were typically created for paintings or sculptures that weren’t executed.



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