Definition of sfumato in US English:



  • The technique of allowing tones and colors to shade gradually into one another, producing softened outlines or hazy forms.

    • ‘The smoky outlines - sfumato - were adopted by countless painters with no interest in Leonardo's profoundly considered basis for them.’
    • ‘He creates rocky landscape backgrounds with misty atmospheric perspective, using sfumato and chiaroscuro to describe colour transitions.’
    • ‘Fragments of the numbers seem to emerge from or recede into the gestures and sfumato of the ground.’
    • ‘The famous smile was achieved through the use of a tonal technique sfumato.’
    • ‘The landscape is idealised from Leonardo's studies of nature, portrayed with techniques of sfumato and aerial perspective.’


Mid 19th century: Italian, literally ‘shaded off’, past participle of sfumare.