Fresco Painting

Hello everyone! For this weeks posting, I will be delving into the an art technique known as fresco. This technique requires many applications of thin layers of plaster on top of one another onto a wall of ceiling to create fine works. While applying the layers of plaster, the artist must apply water based pigments on top of the plaster. This is done to create well preserved works of art. The pigments applied were made by grinding dry powders, which were then mixed with either water or plaster (wet or dry). This technique required a lot of patience due to drying time and details, but the compositions are durable and highly pigmented.

There are three different techniques of applying fresco, the first type is buon fresco. In this case buon is translated to “true”, meaning this technique is the best and true way to use fresco. During this process, the artist paints directly onto the freshly mixed plaster. The wet surface allows for the pigments to easily be applied. This is because the pigment does not need any type of binding agent in order to be painted, water works just fine.

The Creation of Adam - Wikipedia
The Creation of Adam, Michelangelo, 1512

Another type of fresco application is, secco fresco meaning “dry”. This technique requires the artist to paint on top of dry plaster, which allows the artists to change or make more details. In order for the paint to stick to the plaster, the pigments are combined with a binding medium. This binding agent could vary from some type of adhesive to an egg yolk.

The Last Supper (Leonardo) - Wikipedia
The Last Supper, Leonardo da Vinci, 1495-1498

The last type of fresco technique is, mezzo fresco. This technique requires the artist to paint onto the fresco when it is almost entirely dry. One advantage of this technique is that the artist has an extended painting time due to drying. In some cases, artists would combine the three types of fresco application and the mezzo fresco was done on top of a work that was already done in buon fresco.

The Virgin and the Unicorn, by Domenico Zampieri (Domenichino), fresco, 1604-5.
The Virgin and the Unicorn, Domenico Zampieri, 1604-1605

All of the works that are pictured above, are done in fresco. This technique easily allowed artists to create murals, finely crafted works of art. Fresco paintings date as far back as 2000 BC and are still a current form of art making in 2020. Although, the peak of this technique was during the Italian Renaissance. There are many works from this period that are still in great condition such as the Sistine Chapel Ceiling by Leonardo da Vinci.

Michelangelo's Must-See Frescoes In The Sistine Chapel
Sistine Chapel Ceiling, Leonardo da Vinci, 1508-1512

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