Chiaroscuro, literally light-dark in Italian, is a technique used in the visual arts that makes use of light and shadow to define three-dimensional objects. The concept of chiaroscuro as it is understood today originated in 15th-century Italian art theory, although the technique of using gradations of light and dark tones had first appeared during the medieval period.
During the 17th century the concept of chiaroscuro was expanded to include the distribution of light and dark over the entire surface of the picture, not just the representation of individual objects. The work of Leonardo da Vinci in particular led to a further distinction between modelling in chiaroscuro – using black in the shadows – and modelling in colour, techniques that use darker hues of colour to represent shadow.
The term chiaroscuro is also used to describe the ideal voice quality for classically trained singers, “round and rich”.