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The blurring or softening of sharp outlines in painting by subtle and gradual blending of one tone into another.

[Italian, from past participle of sfumare, to evaporate, fade out : s-, from (from Latin ex-; see ex-) + fumare, to smoke (from Latin fūmāre; see fumatory).]
American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition. Copyright © 2016 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.


(Art Terms) (in painting) a gradual transition between areas of different colour, avoiding sharp outlines
[from Italian, from sfumato shaded off, from sfumare to shade off, from Latin ex-1 + fūmāre to smoke]
Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged, 12th Edition 2014 © HarperCollins Publishers 1991, 1994, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011, 2014


(sfuˈmɑ toʊ)

n., pl. -tos.
gradation of tone used to blur the outlines of a form in painting.
[1840–50; < Italian, past participle of sfumare to gradate tone or color]
Random House Kernerman Webster's College Dictionary, © 2010 K Dictionaries Ltd. Copyright 2005, 1997, 1991 by Random House, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
The hand-crafted Montblanc Manufacture Monopusher Chronograph calibre MB M16.31 boasts a brand-new matching Sfumato alligator strap and a special dial made of degraded blue Agate, a natural stone, giving a blue appearance -- all those elements making it the ideal watch for collectors.
In questo modo, il rigetto della domanda e in qualche misura attenuato e sfumato, e lascia aperta la necessita di un dialogo politico e legislativo piu articolato e complesso.
WOLVERHAMPTON: 5.50 Sfumato, 6.25 Escape Proof, 6.55 Mon Frere, 7.25 Arcadienne, 7.55 Desert Friend, 8.25 Stallone, 8.55 Promote.
Take, for instance, sfumato, a technique Da Vinci invented, which softens otherwise unnatural outlines and borders.
Tests had already revealed that the drawing on paper, using Leonard's beloved "sfumato" technique, was not a mere copy of a lost original.
Bringing together the past with the freedom of the present, he works with Montblanc artisans to create a customized Montblanc Sfumato Pocket Holder at the Maison's Pelleteria in Florence.
While he was, to a great extent, his own best teacher, Leonardo did study important subjects in Verrocchio's workshop: drawing, anatomy, chiaroscuro ("the use of contrasts of light and shadow" in art), sfumato (blurring the sharp edges in a painting), and perhaps most important, geometry (geometric imagery was integral to his artistic, engineering, and scientific endeavors).
In his Le scene delNuovo Teatro del Verzaro di Perugia (1785), Baldassarre Orsini recorded the world of the theatrical designer and painter at the end of the 18th century, and gave the first really detailed account of scenic painting technique, repeatedly stressing the correct way to create shadows and highlights, and describing the use of sfumato and transitional passages to bring the whole stage picture into coherence.
The Drew Bijou -- which first made an appearance during the SS18 runway show -- is now available in burnished "sfumato" tobacco leather, leopard print calfskin or rounded quilting.
Like almost everyone who has written about it, Isaacson is reverential towards the Mona Lisa, though not as much as Walter Pater ("hers is the head upon which all the ends of the world are come") and not without using it to underline one of his main themes - Leonardo's sfumato technique, whereby lines are blurred and boundaries (like those between art and science) disappear.