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Règle de Menuisier et pièce de Bois

How are the sizes of paintings defined?

Portrait and landscape formats have taken over our daily lives since our mobile phone became our camera. And anyone who has ever used a printer is familiar with A4 (or with Letter size in US). But have you ever heard of the "Raisin" format? Do you know the secret of harmony in a "Marine" format? Do you know what a 6F format means? We invite you to discover the main lines of the formats in Painting. 

"Round" figures, a European standard

If the possible forms of paintings are infinite, from the round to the square or even the oval, the rectangle has imposed itself in the world of Fine Arts in the West, and there are different systems of standardized formats. In most European countries, the principle of formats in round numbers prevails, with, in general, a progression of 10 in 10 (for example 50x60cm, 50x70cm, 50x80cm, 60x70cm etc.). In Anglo-Saxon countries, the inch is used as the measure (1 inch = 2.54 cm), but the principle remains the same.

Mathematical relations, the French exception

France is an exception with proportional formats based on mathematical ratios linked in whole or in part to the golden ratio.
Used to define harmonious proportions since Ancient Greece (thanks Euclid), it was even called divine proportion during the Renaissance. It is approximately equal to 1.61 and is found in nature as well as in arts and architecture.

This results in 3 chassis formats depending on the use for which it was originally intended:
- P for Paysage (Landscape), qualified as "door of harmony"
- M for Marine, built like a golden rectangle and having a "panoramic" effect
- F for Figure (Face) double golden rectangle, used in particular for portraits in vertical format.
These uses are only conventions, from a Figure format can spring a landscape and a Landscape format can become a self-portrait.

Even if they are built on the same principle, these formats differ from the historical names of the Beaux-Arts paper formats which referred either to its creator (Le Tellier - le tellière ) or to the watermark which made it possible to distinguish them (Cloche, Couronne , Jesus). If these names borrowed from poetry have fallen into oblivion, the Raisin format (50x65 cm) equivalent to 15F is still a reference today in the world of Drawing.

Practicality, harmony and proportionality

If adjustments to these mathematical ratios were necessary in order to adapt to the configuration constraints of industrial machines, the ideal of harmony remains. Each dimension is associated with a Point ranging from 0 to 120. The longest dimension is always expressed first when defining a format. Once the canvas is painted, the dimensions of the Artwork start with the vertical edge. Thus a 4F will be rated 33x24 cm or 24x33 cm depending on whether the painting is intended to be exhibited in Portrait (vertical) or Landscape (horizontal). This point system facilitates exchanges between Artists, frame manufacturers, art galleries and framers. The so-called "point method " is often used to set the selling price of a painting. The value of the point is defined according to qualitative criteria (training and reputation of the Artist, materials and techniques used, etc.) then this value is multiplied by the number of points (dimensions of the Artwork). Another advantage of the French system is the principle of proportionality, which makes it easier to enlarge or shrink the painting during reproduction. Even if the "administrative" paper formats (A4, A3) are different from those of Fine Arts, the principle is similar to that of French paintings. The dimensions are based on a ratio of proportions, making it easy to cut, assemble and enlarge.

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