(Italian: “smoky”). A painting technique, largely developed by Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519), in which the transitions from light to dark are so gradual that they are almost imperceptible. Leonardo wrote that “light and shade should blend without lines or borders in the manner of smoke.” Sfumato softens lines, creating a hazy or “soft-focus” effect. Pronunciation here.
Leonardo da Vinci. Mona Lisa (det.). Oil on canvas. Ca. 1503–1506. Musée du Louvre, Paris.