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The decorative arts are arts or crafts concerned with the design and manufacture of beautiful objects that are also functional.It includes interior design, but not usually architecture.Originally a literary term, it was first used in relation to the visual arts in the Renaissance in the writings of Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519).According to da Vinci's theory of Decorum, the gestures which a figure makes must not only demonstrate feelings, but must be appropriate to age, rank, and position.), which is the equivalent of today's term "underpainting," is a more or less monochrome version of the final painting which gives volume, suggests substance, substantiates the principal compositional elements and distributes darks and lights with a fair degree of accuracy.The lack of color used in the term probably explains the word "dead." In the seventeenth century, dead-coloring appears in various forms.Some of the dead-coloring can be made out here and there through abraded paint layers.It has been remarked that more than one passage in appears unfinished and that this allows us to have a glimpse at Vermeer's underpainting although it is not out of the question that early restoration may be partially responsible for the loss of the uppermost paint layers.

This means that it does not form a thick layer like normal varnishes, and is therefore used for bringing out the full wet appearance of the oil paint on a dry ground before resuming painting.

The promotion of the fine arts over the decorative in European thought can largely be traced to the Renaissance, when Italian theorists such as Giorgio Vasari (1511–1574) promoted artistic values, exemplified by the artists of the High Renaissance, that placed little value on the cost of materials or the amount of skilled work required to produce a work, but instead valued artistic imagination and the individual touch of the hand of a supremely gifted master such as Michelangelo (1475–1564), Raphael (1483–1520) or Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519), reviving to some extent the approach of antiquity.

Most European art during prior to this period had been produced under a very different set of values, where both expensive materials and virtuoso displays in difficult techniques were highly valued.

The massive wooden window frame and the deep shadowed area of the carpet correspond rather closely to our idea of Vermeer's underpainting method.

Neither of these two areas is defined according to the artist's habitual standard of finish.

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