ArtLex Art Dictionary


ffeather, feathering - In drawing and painting, to feather is to blend an edge so that it fades off or softens. To feather is also to overlap values and colors in the manner of the overlapping feathers of a bird.

"Feather-painting" and "feather-mosaic" are media and techniques in which feathers are used as pigments.

Feathers have been used as tools of many sorts in the production of art. The shaft (rachis) can be carved into the nib of a quill pen. Both the quill (calamus) end and the barbed end have been used in various other ways, most often to apply or spread colors. Feathers have also been used whole or in parts as materials in many sorts of artworks. Aboriginal peoples of Peru and certain Pacific islands have produced fabulous costumes incorporating great numbers of feathers in vividdiagram naming the parts of a feather colors.

Only birds produce feathers. For their size, they are light weight and strong. Many are waterproof. Often feathers can be repaired by stroking them from the base up, prompting the hooks on their barbs and barbules to make the barbs realign.

The Kiva Trading Company's American Indian Symbol Dictionary explains that in American Indian culture, gfeathers, depicted in many, many ways, are symbols of prayers, marks of honor or sources of ideas. They represent the Creative Force, and are taken from birds connected with the attribute for which they might be utilized."

"Feather" can also refer to something with a pattern that is feather-like. Anything that is feather-shaped can be called pinnate.

In etching, feathering is to stir or move around the bubbles in the acid with a feather, brush, or pipe cleaner.


Examples of feathers in art:





see thumbnail to rightAlbrecht Dürer (German, 1471-1528), Wing of a Roller, 1512, watercolor and gouache on vellum, 20 x 20 cm, Graphische Sammlung, Vienna. See Northern Renaissance.



see thumbnail to leftJuan Baptiste Cuiris (Mexico, Michoacán, Pátzcuaro), Feather Picture of the Virgin Mary, c. 1550/80, hummingbird and parrot feathers on paper, wood; signed, 25.4 x 24.3 cm, Kunsthistoriches Museum, Vienna. See iridescence, luminosity, and Mexican art.





see thumbnail to rightChina, Chuba, Qing dynasty (1644-1911), 17th century, cut velvet with patterned wefts of multicolored silks, gold-wrapped silk, and peacock-feather filaments, width 55 inches (139.7 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY. See Chinese art and costume.



see thumbnail to leftAustralia, Torres Strait, Mabuiag Island, Torres Strait Islander people, Mask, 19th century, turtle-and clam shell, wood, feathers, resin, seeds, paint, fiber, width 25 inches (63.5 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY. See mask.





see thumbnail to rightProbably Nakota, Yankton Sioux, Northern Plains, Shield, late nineteenth century, buffalo rawhide, native tanned leather, calico cloth, hawk feathers, pigment, diameter 20 1/16 inches (51.0 cm), Cincinnati Art Museum, OH. See American Indian art.




see thumbnail to leftAfrica, Ivory Coast, Senufo peoples, Mask, 19th-20th century, wood, horn, fiber, cotton, feather, metal, sacrificial material, height of mask 14 1/8 inches (35.9 cm), Metropolitan Museum of Art, NY. See African art.



peacock feather

Also see caduceus, debubblizer, marbling, mosaic, panache, and sfumato.


orange feather with chaotic barbs and barbules




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