Da Vinci

DaVinci is a highly regarded brush manufactory headquartered in Nürnberg, Germany, and founded in 1951 by Hans Friedrich Defet from a family brushmaking business that went back to the early 20th century. DaVinci provides a very large line of brushes under their own brand and also manufactures brushes for other art materials brands (they make the Daniel Smith kolinsky and sable travel brushes), but recently the company decided to market directly to the retail consumer and is expanding its presence in the United States. The entire da Vinci line is available at Dakota Brushes.

Kolinsky - At the top of the line, the handmade Da Vinci Maestro 11 Tobolsky-Kolinsky round is a very well crafted brush, with a black albata handle and a seamless, double crimped, gold colored metal ferrule; the total length of the #12 brush is 24.5cm. The tufts are in the traditional English shaping, generously cupped with a core of somewhat stiff, long hairs wrapped in a belly of shorter more flexible hairs; this combination gives the brush resiliency and definition through the point while allowing good capacity in the belly. The tuft is 34mm long and 26mm around at the ferrule (in the #12), tightly packed at the ferrule edge, and snaps when wet to a beautifully defined "needle" point; the belly is a full one centimeter wide. Overall, the sorting of hairs seems to balance nicely the competing goals of resilience, capacity, flow, and pointing. At this writing (2004) the brush is still difficult to find in the USA. Sizes range from #5/0 to #24. Prices: #6, US$24.70; #12, US$117.00.

The handmade Da Vinci Maestro 10 Tobolsky-Kolinsky round is a similar brush to the Maestro 11, but with a silver colored metal ferrule and a somewhat shorter and narrower tuft in the European style, made from smaller hairs. Total length of the #12 is 24.1cm; the tuft is 32mm long 22mm around at the ferrule (in the #12). For the price the brush is a very good value and is available in an enormous range of sizes, from #10/0 up to #50 (over 3cm in diameter and 7cm long, and priced close to $1000, it is the largest kolinksy brush made today). Prices: #6, US$19.40; #12, US$92.10.

DaVinci also makes the Series 35 which is a long tapered kolinsky round with an narrower belly.

Da Vinci Maestro 11 round (#6 and #12) and Da Vinci Maestro 10 round (#6 and #12)

The handmade Da Vinci Series 1310 flat is a high quality kolinsky brush in the "one stroke" style, with black lacquered wood handles, slightly thicker than comparable brushes, with a silver colored, double crimped metal ferrule and a generously thick tuft. Total length of the #20 is 25.2cm; the tuft is 35mm long and 24mm wide at the ferrule. The brush is nicely balanced just behind the ferrule, allowing a comfortable grip away from the tuft. The hairs are slightly lighter and redder than in the rounds. The tuft has a nice flexibility when charged with liquid, yet is resilient enough to drive liquid into paper crevises on the first stroke. Sizes range from a #2 (about 3/32" wide) to a #24. Like the Maestro 11 this brush is still difficult to find in the USA. Prices: #6, US$----; #12, US$----.

The handmade Da Vinci Series 1311 flat is in shorter tuft, "bright" style, also with a black lacquered wood handle, a silver colored, double crimped metal ferrule and a chunky, squarish tuft. The brush is nicely balanced but the balance is slightly more forward than the 1310. The #20 is 24.1mm long; the tuft is 27mm long and 24mm wide at the ferrule. Sizes range from a #2 (about 3/32" wide) to #24 (1-1/2"). Prices: #12, US$48.90; #20, US$127.80.

Da Vinci Series 1310 flat (#10 and #20) and Series 1311 flat (#20)

Other Sable - DaVinci makes red sable watercolor rounds, as well as riggers, fans, filberts, brights, mops and spotters. Sizes of the rounds range from #000 to #24 in the standard intervals. The sables are made to the same quality as the pure kolinskies, but have slightly smaller tufts in the large sizes.

The red sable flats come in both "one stroke" (long hairs, rectangular shape) and bright (short hairs, square shape) styles. The one strokes are in the standard five widths, but the brights are in eleven widths sized numerically from #1 (~3mm) to #18 (20mm), again with regular or long handles.

Other Types - DaVinci makes an economy synthetic bristle line as Cosmotop-Spin. The bristles are extruded in 5 different thickeness and mixed during assembly to give the tuft flexibility, durability and very good liquid capacity.

The Da Vinci Cosmotop-Spin 5580 round with a red laquered, beveled handle that provides a more articulated grip behind the ferrule is a moderately soft bristled brush with good pointing for a synthetic. The brush and tuft are slightly smaller than the comparable sable brush: total length of the #12 is 23.7mm, with a tuft 30mm long and 25mm around at the ferrule. The bristles are tightly packed. Prices of the rounds: #6, US$5.20; #12, US$11.30.

The Da Vinci Cosmotop-Spin 5880 flat is similarly made with a red laquered, beveled handle and proportions that most resemble the 1311 sable bright. The total length of the #20 is 24.9mm and the tuft is 24mm long and 22mm wide at the ferrule. Prices of the "one stroke" flats: #12 (1/2"), US$7.40; #20 (1"), US$19.40.

DaVinci also makes the usual accessory brushes, such as squirrel mops and sky wash brushes, and mixed hair rounds and flats. The company also makes a Junior line of synthetic rounds and flats (brights) with delightful, brightly colored plated metal ferrules.

Overall I am impressed and pleased with the Da Vinci brushes. They provide excellent quality, high capacity, very responsive handling, handmade beauty and durability, and a reliable standard by which to judge the manufacture and performance of the top end of retail brushes from larger volume art supply companies. I hope the brushes are soon more easily found in the USA.

Da Vinci Cosmotop-Spin 5580 rounds (#6 and #12) and Cosmotop-Spin 5880 flats (#10 and #20)