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A fresco (plural frescoes) is any of several related painting types. The word comes from the Italian affresco which in turn derives from fresco ("fresh"), which has Germanic origins. Fresco paintings can be done in two ways: Buon fresco paintings are done on wet plaster, while a secco paintings are completed on dried plaster.


[edit] Technique

In painting a fresco, the surface of a plastered wall is divided into areas roughly corresponding to the contours of the figures or the landscape, generally drawn on a rough underlayer of plaster, called the arriccio. Many artists sketched their compositions on this underlayer, which would never be seen, in a red pigment called sinopia. From this pigment, the underdrawing acquired its name, the sinopia. On top of this first, rough layer of plaster, a second layer is added, called the intonaco. This is the final layer, and would be smoothed and perfected as the painting surface.

Buon fresco technique consists of painting in pigment mixed with water on wet, fresh, lime mortar or plaster (intonaco). Due to the chemical makeup of the plaster, a binder is not required, as the pigment mixed solely with the water will be enough to bind the pigment to the wall. The pigment is absorbed by the wet plaster; after a number of hours, the plaster dries, and the pigment dries as well, a part of the wall. One of the first painters to use this technique was the Isaac Master in the Upper Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi.

A secco painting, in contrast, is done on dry plaster. The pigments thus require a binding medium, such as egg, to hold the pigment to the wall.

Generally, buon fresco works are more durable than a secco works. Historically, the a secco technique was used more often for final touches or to touch-up mistakes made in a buon fresco work.

Buon frescoes are difficult to create because of the deadline associated with the drying plaster. Generally, a layer of plaster will require ten to twelve hours to dry; ideally, an artist would begin to paint after one hour and continue until two hours before the drying time. Thus, an artist would need to know exactly how much s/he could paint in those hours, before the plaster dries: this area is called the giornata ("day's work"). Once a giornata is dried, no more buon fresco can be done without removing the dried plaster from the wall-- a task usually requiring a crowbar or other sharp instrument-- and starting over. Hence the use of a secco to repair minor mistakes or to add finishing touches.

In a wall-sized fresco, there may be ten to twenty giornate, or separate areas of plaster. After centuries, these giornate (originally, nearly invisible) have become visible, and in many large-scale frescoes, these divisions are visible from the ground. Additionally, the border between giornate was often covered by a secco frescoing, which has since fallen off.

[edit] Frescoes in history

The earliest form of fresco was Egyptian wall paintings in tombs, usually using the a secco technique.

Roman wall paintings, such as those at Pompeii and Herculaneum, were completed in buon fresco.

One of the rare examples of Islam fresco painting can be seen in Qasr Amra, the desert palace of the Umayyads in the 8th century.

The late Medieval period and the Renaissance saw the most prominent use of fresco, particularly in Italy, where most churches and many government buildings still feature fresco decoration.

Andrea Palladio, the famous Italian architect of the 16th century, built many mansions with plain exteriors and stunning interiors filled with frescoes.

[edit] Selected examples of Italian frescoes

Italian Late Medieval-Quattrocento

Italian "High Renaissance"

Italian Baroque

[edit] Bulgarian frescoes

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

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