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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.
The varnish retains its colorless appearance longer than any other common varnish.
It is generally composed of a single resin, such as Dammar or a synthetic type.
The decorative arts are often categorized in opposition to the "fine arts", namely, painting, drawing, photography and sculpture, which generally are thought to have no function other than to be seen.
The distinction between the decorative and the fine arts arose from the post-Renaissance art of the West, but is much less meaningful when considering the art of other cultures and periods, where the most highly regarded works—or even all works—include those in decorative media.
Decorum also determined that a pictorial or sculptural subject was suitable for an architectural setting, such as Vulcan's forge over a fireplace, or that kinds of buildings are fitting in urban or rural contexts or appropriate for persons of certain status.
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.
Dammar varnish does yellow and crack, as all varnishes do, but less so than others.
The addition of Dammar in a paint medium adds brilliance and luminosity to color.
Some of the decorative features have been painted with medium blue paint over the monochrome ground, most likely a mixture of natural ultramarine blue and a touch of lead white.
It is probable that the blue areas would have been subsequently glazed with the same ultramarine, this time in a dense, transparent medium in order to deepen and enrich their color.
Dammar contains a high percentage of turps, or mineral spirits.