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Amy M Lavine - The legendary romance of La Fornarina

Although there’s no definitive evidence, it’s usually assumed that the model in Raphael’s iconic La Fornarina was his lover, Margherita Luti. The painting was originally called Portrait of Young Woman, but art historians popularized the name La Fornarina, meaning “little baker girl,” in reference to Luti being the daughter of a baker. She’s generally credited as the model behind Raphael’s La Velata as well.

Amy M Lavine
Raphael died shortly after La Fornarina was completed, and according to rumors his death was caused by a fever he contracted after an overly strenuous night with his mistress. The story has something of a legendary quality, and it later inspired Ingres to paint a double portrait of Raphael and La Fornarina. Picasso also based a series of drawings on the lovers in 1968.

Raphael was known as “a very amorous man,” and the sexual mythology surrounding La Fornarina undoubtedly played a part in making the painting one of his most well-known artworks, just as Raphael likely owes a great deal of his fame to the dramatic rivalry he had with Michaelango, who accused him of plagiarism and regularly derided his talent. Raphael would probably still be quite famous even without beautiful mistresses and genius enemies, but it’s no coincidence that salaciousness and drama are also the stuff of legends.

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Amy M. Lavine - Why I own approximately a million different brushes

I own so many brushes that it’s sometimes overwhelming. Why do I have so many? It’s not just because I own an art supply store or because I’m always forgetting to clean them properly. It’s also because artists’ brushes come in so many different sizes, shapes, and types, each with its own particular purpose. Consider these variables:


                                                 Photo credit Amy M Lavine 2016.

  • Shape. Brushes come in lots of shapes: rounds, liners, flats, brights, angles, filberts, fans, washes, mops, stipplers, etc. Each shape is useful for making different types of strokes or working with different kinds of paint.
  • Size. I have brushes ranging in size from 20/0, which is miniscule (like for painting grains of rice), to a five-inch flat that’s more for painting walls than for fine art. Brushes also come with short or long handles, the former being useful for detail work while the latter allows more gestural strokes.
  • Bristle type. Sable brushes are excellent for watercolor and details in oil paintings; hog bristles are good for heavier paints; and goat, badger, camel, and squirrel are common too. Let’s not forget the many different synthetic bristle types that are precision engineered to mimic natural bristles; these are often preferred, as they’re more durable and cheaper than the real thing.

Amy M Lavine is the owner of Sketch Art Supplies in Hudson, NY, and a self-admitted brush junkie. If you have questions about brushes, contact Amy M Lavine at or call Sketch at 518-828-9573.

Amy M. Lavine - Raphael’s unicorn

Raphael’s Lady with Unicorn is a painting with many secrets. It also demonstrates how conservation science contributes to art history, and sometimes requires us to radically change the narratives behind a piece of art.

The lovely and mysterious Lady with Unicorn was painted in Florence sometime around 1505. Raphael was heavily influenced by Da Vinci, who was also working in Florence at the time, and it’s likely no coincidence that the portrait adopts a similar posture, background, and half-length view as those Da Vinci used in the Mona Lisa.

Unfortunately for Raphael, however, the painting was misattributed to several other artists after his death and was subject to “editing” by another artist in the mid-1600s. The changes, which were revealed and reversed during conservation on the painting in 1934, included an addition covering the girl’s shoulders for modesty and the replacement of the unicorn with a wheel for St. Catherine. In a second restoration some 25 years later it was discovered that a small dog had originally been painted by Raphael under the unicorn. Art historians have theorized that the dog was part of the original composition, which was commissioned as a bridal portrait, but that Raphael replaced it with the unicorn after the wedding was called off to represent virginity instead.

This article was written by Amy M Lavine, a Hudson, NY-based writer and attorney and the owner of Sketch Art Supplies. Questions or comments can be sent to Amy M Lavine at




Amy M. Lavine on zoning law and the Second Amendment

The March 2016 edition of the Zoning and Planning Law Report contains an article by Amy M Lavine on zoning and the Second Amendment. The article, In the Zone of Fire: Land Use Restrictions for Shooting Ranges, Gun Dealers, and Similar Uses, discusses the Supreme Court’s recent gun control decisions and their impact on municipalities attempting to regulate the use of property for shooting ranges and gun dealerships. It also discusses more typical zoning issues that arise with local gun control laws, such as special permit requirements, zoning district prohibitions, and state law preemption.

As Lavine explains in the article, although zoning can help ensure that firearms-related property uses comply with local land use policies, municipalities must be careful to avoid unduly restricting the right to bear arms in violation of the Second Amendment, and they must also respect restrictions on firearms regulations contained in state zoning and gun control laws. Despite these legal considerations, however, Lavine concludes that “gun control has emerged as an increasingly important public concern, and zoning provides an effective opportunity for local governments to proactively manage the development of shooting ranges, gun dealers, and other firearms-related land uses.”

Amy M Lavine is an attorney based in Hudson, NY. She has written extensively about zoning, eminent domain, and other state and local government law issues for publications such as Salkin’s American Law of Zoning and the Urban Lawyer. Lavine is also an artist and entrepreneur and currently owns Sketch Hudson, an art supply and stationery retailer.

Amy M Lavine - Understanding drawing and sketching pencils

While the average person might think that a pencil is just a pencil, drawing and sketching pencils are much more finely tuned than their school-grade equivalents, says Amy M Lavine, the owner of SKETCH Art Supplies in Hudson, New York.

 Graphite pencils come in a range of hardnesses, Lavine explains, ranging from 9B at the softest to 9H at the hardest. Softer leads produce dark, thick lines, and are often preferred for sketching and drawing where smooth, expressive lines are desired. At the other side of the spectrum, harder pencils produce lines that are lighter grey and much narrower, making them more appropriate for technical illustrations and drafting applications where precision and eraseability are necessary. In the middle of the range is HB, which observant non-artists might recognize as the same notation found on many common #2 pencils.

Amy M Lavine established SKETCH, a Hudson, New York art supply and stationery shop, nearly two and a half years ago.

 Pencils are also available in different casings and formats. Aside from the typical wood barrel pencil, woodless graphite pencils with only thin plastic casings are available, as are mechanical pencils in various widths. Another option that Amy M Lavine mentions is called a lead holder. Similar to mechanical pencils but with a simplified mechanism that doesn’t advance the lead automatically, lead holders are generally used for much thicker leads.

 Choosing the perfect pencil can seem like an unnecessarily difficult task for people who’ve never known anything but #2 pencils, but understanding the characteristics of different drawing and sketching tools is where an art supplier like Amy M Lavine comes in, as she’s able to recommend which pencil grades different customers should use for different applications. For more information, contact her at