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Marco De Luca or About the Instability of Color

On 21, Sep 2012 | 12 Comments | In Uncategorized | By Nancie

Marco De Luca "Particolare anatomico" 2007 70 x 50 cm

Italian art consultant, author, and specialist in the use of color Daniele Torcellini brings us this extraordinarily rich look into the work of mosaic master Marco De Luca.  With a lyrical blend of science and passion, Torcellini shows us how De Luca’s signature use of color visually transports us as viewers to new and fantastical places.  We are especially appreciative of Torcellini’s photographs which were carefully crafted to be exquisite illustrations – be sure to click on them for larger versions.  This article accompanies the opening of De Luca’s current exhibit at Ravenna’s Museum of Art (MAR).

By Daniele Torcellini

Translation by Mirta Baratto


The aim of this brief essay is to analyze a characteristic of Marco De Luca’s artwork – the use of color – through a strictly formal and perceptual analysis.

In Marco De Luca’s work, color is a primary, founding structure, and yet, at the same time, it is a changeable and undefined element. His artworks look as if they have been built through a series of superimposed veils, shade after shade; following modulations of hue, tone or saturation, sometimes delicate and scarcely perceptible, sometimes emphasized and pronounced.

In these fluidified or evaporated layers, colors are sort of suspended, delocalized. They appear not to be in relation to the physical surface of the work. Film color, to describe them using the words of David Katz – one of the most lucid scientists and psychologists of color in the early 20th century – something like the color of the sky, it is never possible to tell how far away from us it is.

Marco De Luca "Le Mura di Atlantide" 2002 126 x 174 cm

This happens in spite of the technique chosen by the artist or, just maybe, because of it. Mosaic. A technique that doesn’t allow for the superimposing of color but only for the placement of one color next to another. A technique in which the only fluidity is in the memory of the natural and artificial processes that have created the materials – glass and stone. A technique in which color gradations are feasible solely and beautifully thanks to additive synthesis – juxtaposing different colors in different quantities.

"Le Mura di Atlantide" Detail

The additive synthesis of colors is none other than the result of the limitations of the human visual system, these limits allow the most effective possibility to produce and reproduce light effects. Additive synthesis was in the desperate attempt of George Seraut, it was in the success of the first color photography – the Autochrome plates of Lumiere brothers – and it is in what is happening now in every TV screen. Two different hues of color put close together if observed from a distance are perceived as a single color, which is the result of the mixing of the original two colors. A chess-board of green and red squares, in the distance is seen as yellow. The light of a point adds up to the light of a point close by, that’s why it’s called additive synthesis. The light is intensified.

"Le Mura di Atlantide" as seen from a distance.

Marco De Luca’s works ask the observer to step back in order to be immersed in them. In this way the eye will be able to find the right distance, so that the fusion of colors can happen, to reduce the visual angle so that many different spots won’t appear as separate but of the same color. The color obtained through additive synthesis is color-light, which brings up-to-date Seurat’s lesson, freeing it from any attempt mimesis of nature and from any aspiration of cold laboratory science, to focus on abstract forms, forms of the visual thought of the artist.

Marco De Luca’s work could be described as color field mosaic. Layers of colors which have depth and are arranged in depth, teeming with atmosphere, going away and approaching the viewer. Intricate layers, where each color is the synthesis of many different colors wisely combined. Layers that vary in space. In the artist’s work there is often the display of what the science of color would define as ΔE, a difference of color. Sometimes in horizontal directions, more often following verticality, color changes, often clearing up, de-saturating or getting lighter. There is a clear direction that allows these color gradations to work, a direction that De Luca has defined and strictly follows.

Marco De Luca "Paesaggio rosso" 2012 131 x 23 x 5 cm

In Paesaggio Rosso, the intense purple stretches out into a more serene scarlet. In the vast and articulated Mura d’Atlantide, the deep blue clears up in azure, to the white, following vertical bands which differ with more or less emphasis.

And, it is possible to continue.

Marco De Luca "Mappa" 2003 173 x 126 cm

The delicate variations of beige hues in Mappa. The thin and gradual warm-cold passage in the impressive Ascolta piove….

Marco De Luca "Ascolta piove . . ." 2011 230 x 300 x 70 cm

Or, again, the watery green fading of Capitello.

The hypothetical sky that darkens in the night from horizon to zenith in Stella polare. The lightening from the top to the valley of Il monte di Mauro.

Marco De Luca "Stella polare" 2005 100 x 708 cm

Marco De Luca "Il monte di Mauro" 2011 120 x 100 cm

"Il monte di Mauro" Detail

Sometimes the transitions are more rough as in the shading between contrasting colors in Particolare anatomico, La morte di Ofelia or Aga di un pais no me (trittico Pasolini I): visual oxymorons, like a sunset when the yellow-orange from the horizon shades off into blue, its opposite.

Marco De Luca "Particolare anatomico" 2007 70 x 50 cm

Marco De Luca "La morte di Ofelia" 2003 123 x 183 x 3 cm

Marco De Luca "Aga di un pais no me (trittico Omagio a Pasolini I)" 2005 100 x 708 cm

The monochromatic surfaces are rare, but the monochromatism is a result of the synthesis of many different colors. As in Il vello d’oro, Mosaico blu, Aga di un pais no me (trittico Pasolini III) or Il faro. La sposa rises silently to sublimate into white – the additive synthesis of all colors.

Marco De Luca "Il vello d'oro" 2010 215 x 115 x 41 cm

"Il vello d'oro" Detail

Marco De Luca "Mosaico blu" 2007 39 x 24.5 cm

Marco De Luca "Aga di un pais no me (trittico Omagio a Pasolini III)" 2005 100 x 70 cm

Marco De Luca "La sposa" 2008 195 x 68 x 15 cm

Marco De Luca "Il faro" 2005 64 x 40 x 7 cm

"Il faro" Detail

Pensiero d’oriente , which is a thought that permeates all the artist’s work, it’s a sum of the possibilities of color and its mutable combinations. The bleaching of the blues of the upper part, in azure and cyan blue of the lower part, the intercalation of gold and green colors, that thin out along the same direction, the homogeneity of the orange colors along the surface, everything takes part in the definition of a stratified and complex color, which moves clearing up, creating light from the dark. A balance between contrasting colors, complementary, or almost complementary, where, as noticed by Josef Albers, the chromatic harmony can be obtained not only through the color choice, but through the exact quantity of each one.

Marco De Luca "Pensiero d'Oriente" 2004 150 x 100 cm

Marco De Luca, certainly, is skilled both in the color choice and in the weighing of his colors; reaching visual potentiality that are left to the eye of the observer. It’s up to the observer, finally, to give to these works of art the time and the space so that colors can literally rise to become a reality in the viewer’s perception.



"Le Mura di Atlantide" as seen from a distance.


"Le Mura di Atlantide" Detail


Marco De Luca "Paesaggio rosso" 2012 131 x 23 x 5 cm


Marco De Luca "Mappa" 2003 173 x 126 cm


Marco De Luca "Ascolta piove . . ." 2011 230 x 300 x 70 cm


Marco De Luca "Stella Polare" 2005 100 x 708 cm


Marco De Luca "Il monte di Mauro" 2011 120 x 100 cm


Marco De Luca "Particolare anatomico" 2007 70 x 50 cm


Marco De Luca "La Morte di Ofelia" 2003 123 x 183 x 3 cm


Marco De Luca "Aga di un pais no me (trittico Omagio a Pasolini I) 2005 100 x 708 cm


Marco De Luca "Il Vello d'Oro" 2010 215 x 115 x 41 cm


Marco De Luca "Aga di un pais no me (trittico Omagio a Pasolini III) 2005 100 x 70 cm


Marco De Luca "La sposa" 2008 195 x 68 x 15 cm


Marco De Luca "Pensiero d'Oriente" 2004 150 x 100 cm


"Il monte de Mauro" Detail


"Il vello d'oro" Detail


Marco De Luca "Mosaico blu" 2007 39 x 24.5 cm


Marco De Luca "Il Faro" 2005 64 x 40 x 7 cm


"Il faro" Detail



About the Author

Daniele Torcellini (born Fano, Italy 1978) is a docent of Contemporary Methodologies and Techniques at the Academy of Fine Arts in Ravenna and is a Ph.D. student in Contemporary Art History from the University of Siena, where he is conducting research on the history and technology of reproduction of colors in works of art.

Since 2006, Torcellini has been a collaborator with the International Centre for Documentation on Mosaic at the City of Ravenna’s Museum of Art (MAR) His principle themes of research are those of visual perception of colors, particularly regarding the history, conservation and reproduction of the mosaic art form. He has presented his research findings at seminars and conferences and has published numerous opinions and articles in national and international locations. Among the publications is the book The Perception of Colors in the Practice of Restoration.

Recent Articles

Derivations, in “O(Ax) = dO(Am) Impossible Equations” exhibition catalog, MAR (City of Ravenna Museum of Art) November 4 – 20, 2011 edited by the Marte Cultural Association

Medium or Message? Limited Episodes of the Reproduction of Colors in Works of Art in “Colors and Colorimetry; Multidisciplinary contributions” Proceedings of the Sixth National Conference of Color (Rome, Sept. 15 – 16 2011)

Sparkles, Colours and other light effects. The problem of the photographic reproduction of mosaic, in “The Proceedings: Interaction of Colour & Light in the Arts and Sciences, 7-10 June, 2011 Zurich, Switzerland”. Midterm Meeting of the International Colour Association.

Professional Associations

Torcellini is a member of the Italian “Group of Colors” (, of AIC (International Colour Association ( and of CREATE, Colour Research for European Advanced Technology Employment ( He is a founding member and president of the Marte Cultural Association and is a contributing editor for the French mosaic magazine, Mosaique.




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  1. Katherine Aimone

    I’m blown away by this work, and it’s certainly not old-school to me, but I’m not a mosaic artist. It feels extremely contemporary to me. The aesthetics are so subtle. And the writing is, it goes without saying, is as it should be, right on target and very schooled and articulate. I really enjoyed looking at this, thank you.

  2. Magda

    I admire Marco de Luca’s work. Very intelligent, insightful work based on the play of colour and the nature of mosaic. The article is simply extraordinary. The translation too. Thank you for sharing such quality content Nancie!

  3. Luis Laso Casas

    Great article and insight into such an inspirational and exciting artist.
    The way De Luca plays with colour variations to create such exquisite optical illusions shows such deep understanding of the possibilities mosaic as an art has to offer.
    De Luca’s joyful and calculated play with light and colour is subtly enhanced by a tessellation and use of the negative space I can so easily submerge myself until I completely loose track of time.

  4. Lilian Broca

    There is so much in Marco de Luca’s work that we are trying to achieve. His superior vision and use of colour is an inspiration to all of us. I enjoyed reading this well articulated article; it is a keeper.

  5. Yulia Hanansen

    These are incredibly inspiring! Content-wise and technically as well. There is so much clarity in these artworks.

  6. Betsy Gallery

    I would like to obtain a copy of Sparkles, Colours and other light effects. The problem of the photographic reproduction of mosaic, in “The Proceedings: Interaction of Colour & Light in the Arts and Sciences, 7-10 June, 2011 Zurich, Switzerland”. Midterm Meeting of the International Colour Association. but the link to here does not work.

    • Nancie

      Thank you, Betsy Gallery for finding this glitch. The link has been fixed. The correct version is

  7. Marcelo

    Nancie, thanks again for another well sourced article.
    We are all very quick to say that the work is beautiful and the text well written, etc. However, not diminishing their merit, I am still to see challenging mosaic work coming out of Italy. They keep repeating old formulas. This is the 21st century after all. Where is the engagement with the ‘now’ and the questioning of mosaic methods and its historical weight? The so called mosaic “masters” should be in the forefront and not so derivative. I am familiar with Katz perceptual analysis but I also think that Merleau-Ponty has a lot to offer when it comes to the understanding of meaning creation through the viewer’s perception of an artwork. The internet has helped us to connect widely. Hopefully, it will allow us to question traditional ways even further and surpass our limits.

  8. Jacqueline Iskander

    Thank you! I so enjoyed this article… so nicely done in every aspect.

    • Nancie

      We couldn’t agree more, Jackie. Daniele Torcellini and Marco De Luca is a powerful combination!

  9. Duke de Dreadful

    Excellent insightful essay supported by perfect photography.

    • Nancie

      We’re so glad to have Torcellini as a contributer, Lord Dreadful, just as we welcome your comments!

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