A “pounce pattern” is a method for transferring a design to a surface. It is the oldest way to reproduce a design, known to date. Before there was such a thing as carbon paper or a stencil, the only way to transfer a drawing or cartoon was with a pounce pattern. In the old days, a piece of cloth, a skin, or paper were used to create the pounce.
All the best fresco painters in the 17th century used this method of transfer. Michelangelo, used this technique on the Sistine Chapel in Rome.
A series of pin-pricks follow the line of the pattern with the spacing of approximately 1/6 of an inch, depending on the complexity of the design. The more detailed design, the closer the holes. Today, there are few modern tools to make the dots. A stencil wheel will increase production on straight or long lines. Sign painters use an electric pounce that shoots electricity through a rod that burns the holes.
Using a pounce bag or block that is filled with crushed charcoal; the pattern is pounced over every part of the design. The pounce and rub motion will most effectively transfer the design. If the process is done successfully, tiny dots will remain, thus offering enough information to paint the pattern.
Even with today’s stencil designs, a pounce is a great way to transfer a large-scale design or a multi-repeat. Pouncing allows you to easily wipe off the design and re-position it. Plus, once you have the pounce pattern, you can use it over and over, where stencils become worn over time.
These 3 images, along with the one at the top, are from the Vatican. The 3 mono-chrome designs are from the Raphael room and the polychrome is from the library. It’s pretty amazing how the pattern is still there, but doesn’t take away from the overall design. I get very excited when I see the pounce pattern in a centuries-old designs. As a decorative painter, these clues are fascinating!