Pria Nera is the original name of the pencil, used for the first time in Italy in the XV century. A pencil means Creativity in the hands of a designer, then it turns into the Expertise of a modeller drawing cardboard cut-outs for every model, and finally into the Precision of the artisan whose pencil traces those same cut-outs selecting the best part of each leather.
“Ancora per disegnare ho trovata certa pría nera,che vien del Piemonte,la quale è tenera pría;e puo’la aguzzare con coltellino,chè ella è tenera e ben negra;e puoi ridurla a quella perfezione che’l carbone. E disegna secondo che vuoi”.
“Il libro dell’arte o Trattato della pittura” | Cennino Cennini
Cennino of Andrea Cennini (Colle di Val d’Elsa, 1370 - Firenze, 1440) for a dozen years a pupil of Agnolo Gaddi, was an Italian painter influenced by Giotto and known for writing in vernacular at the beginning of the XV century an essay about painting, “Il Libro dell’Arte” (The Book of the Art).
One of the most ancient writing tools is the stylus, whose sharp tip allows the graphic drafting. We see it in a fresco at Pompeii, where the poetess Sappho is shown while preparing to write one of the poems that made her famous. If at that time the stylus was used to write, afterward its use has been extended to the drawing. From the second part of the XV century in the North-Central area of Italy the black pencil, also called “pietra nera” (black stone) or “pietra d’Italia” (stone of Italy), obtained a great success. It was a natural material (shale or coal) coming from the fields of the region Piemonte, already known at the time of Cennini, but then still little used, at least in Tuscany. They obtained small rods to be sharpened, and its flexibility allowed both precise details, if the tip was sharpened, and atmospheric effects with smooth tonal gradations, if used flat.
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