FRESCO

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AFFRESCO – NOT FOR THE IRRESOLUTE

 

    “The practice of Fresco painting is not adapted for copyists,

       or timid painters, or irresolute persons, who necessarily

avail themselves of the genius of others..."[1]

 

In 1998 I spent five months at ‘Il Laboratorio per Affresco di Vainella Tuscany Italy, under the direction of the Master Leonetto Tintori studying the techniques of buon fresco, auto staccante, secco fresco, stucco luccido - encausto, sgraffito and scagliola. - Referred to as 'Fresco.'

  • Fresco painting has an ethereal quality with a surface texture similar to stone. 

  • Fresco, like a pedantic Master, tells you when it is ready to be painted, demanding the respect of the artist from the beginning.

  • Fresco is an ancient technique with many modern variations. 

  • Fresco makes one aware of the convenience of shopping in the modern world: 

                     a.  (11th Sept 1459). “I had from the Jesuits two ounces of blue of that kind                           which is three great florins per ounce”

                     b.  (25th September 1459) “I have begun this morning to put on the blue                               (Azzuro) and I cannot leave……..I remind you to send to Venice for the                             blue because by this day week, this side shall be finished and I want                                 blue for the other."

Fresco demands the respect of the artist. Mrs Merrifield in 1846 translated the diaries of many Italian artists who had worked with fresco including Antonio Palomino and Francisco Pecheco. Pacheco suggested that:

 

                    "It is the most manly and lasting kind of painting, therefore those who                             practice it ought to be more respected and esteemed than other

painters; being considered great masters"[2]

 

[1] Mrs Merrifield The Art of Fresco Painting   new illustrated  edition Alec Tiranti Ltd 1952

p64

[2] Mrs Merrifield The Art of Fresco Painting   new illustrated  edition Alec Tiranti Ltd 1952 p70

 

AFFRESCO METHODS

 

Buon fresco –Buon Fresco is the painting of an image on wet Intonico using a ‘cartoon’. With this method the fresco may be applied to limestone, brick or stone walls. The painting surface is made up of a mixture of aged lime putty and washed river sand. There are two layers applied. Firstly the ‘arricio’ and then a finer mixture for the painting surface called the ‘Intonico’. One paints onto this wet surface with a mixture of pure pigment and water. This technique was used in Egypt, Europe, Mexico and South America. It is from this technique that other modern methods have evolved.

Auto staccante  - In Italy we experimented with ways of taking Fresco beyond the traditional Italian representation into a contemporary context.  This method that enables a finished fresco to be made portable.

 

Secco fresco involves the painting of pigments on to dry (secco) plaster. This is a very effective method for making works for strappo fresco

 

Strappo fresco -  The first stage of restoration where the fresco is removed from the wall onto pieces of gauze with glue. The wall is repaired and the fresco is then transferred back to the wall surface.

 

Encausto - - Ammonia and wax are used as a medium for the pigment giving the work a beautiful polished surface similar to a polished ceramic tile when finished.  This is believed to be the method used in Pompeii. 

 

Stucco luccido – A layer of wax is added to the surface.

 

Sgraffito -   Two layers of plaster are applied with the bottom layer blackened with pigment. When dry the image is scratched through the top layer, thus exposing the bottom.

 

Scagliola -  This method is used for patterned borders on wall designs.

[1]  Don Acisclo Antonio Palomino de Castro y Velasco (1663-1726) under the title of “Museo pictorico y escala opticapublished three         large volumes in quatro” [1] containing instructions for oil and fresco painting. Merrifield, Mrs. The Art of Fresco Painting new             Illustrated edition Alec Tiranti, London 1952

[2]  25th September 1459 -Letters from Bennozzo Gozzoli to Pietro de Medici, speaking of the picture of the Three Magi, in the                 chapel of the Medici