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Fresco

[fres-koh]

Fresco (plural either frescos or frescoes) is any of several related painting types, done on plaster on walls or ceilings. The word fresco comes from the Italian word affresco which derives from the adjective fresco ("fresh"), which has Latin origins.

Types

Buon fresco technique consists of painting in pigment mixed with water on a thin layer of wet, fresh, lime mortar or plaster, for which the Italian word for plaster, intonaco, is used. Because of the chemical makeup of the plaster, a binder is not required, as the pigment mixed solely with the water will sink into the intonaco, which itself becomes the medium holding the pigment. The pigment is absorbed by the wet plaster; after a number of hours, the plaster dries and reacts with the air: it is this chemical reaction which fixes the pigment particles in the plaster. One of the first painters in the post-classical period 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 (secco is "dry" in Italian). The pigments thus require a binding medium, such as egg (tempera), glue or oil to attach the pigment to the wall. It is important to distinguish between a secco work done on top of buon fresco, which according to most authorities was in fact standard from the Middle Ages onwards, and work done entirely a secco on a blank wall. Generally, buon fresco works are more durable than any a secco work added on top of them, because a secco work lasts better with a roughened plaster surface, whilst true fresco should have a smooth one. The additional a secco work would be done to make changes, and sometimes to add small details, but also because not all colours can be achieved in true fresco, because only some pigments work chemically in the very alkaline environment of fresh lime-based plaster. Blue was a particular problem, and skies and blue robes were often added a secco, as neither azurite blue, nor lapis lazuli, the only two blue pigments then available, work well in wet fresco.

It has also become increasingly clear, thanks to modern analytical techniques, that even in the early Italian Renaissance painters quite frequently employed a secco techniques so as to allow the use of a broader range of pigments. In most early examples this work has now entirely vanished, but a whole fresco done a secco on a surface roughened to give a key for the paint may survive very well, although damp is more threatening to it than to buon fresco.

A third type, called mezzo-fresco, is painted on nearly-dry intonaco—firm enough not to take a thumb-print, says the sixteenth-century author Ignazio Pozzo—so that the pigment only penetrates slightly into the plaster. By the end of the sixteenth century this had largely displaced buon fresco, and was used by painters such as Gianbattista Tiepolo. This technique had, in reduced form, the advantages of a secco work.

The three key advantages of work done entirely a secco were that it was quicker, mistakes could be corrected, and the colours varied less from when applied to when fully dry—in wet fresco there was a considerable change.

Technique

In painting buon fresco, a rough underlayer called the arriccio is added to the whole area to be painted, and allowed it to dry for some days. Many artists sketched their compositions on this underlayer, which would never be seen, in a red pigment called sinopia; these drawings are also called sinopia. Later, techniques for transferring paper drawings to the wall were developed. The main lines of the drawing were pricked over with a point, held against the wall, and a bag of soot (spolvero) banged on them on produce black dots along the lines. If a previous fresco was being painted over, the surface would be roughened to give a key. On the day of painting, a thinner, smooth layer of fine plaster, the intonaco, is added to the amount of wall that can be expected to be completed in a day, sometimes matching the contours of the figures or the landscape, but more often just starting from the top of the composition. This area is called the giornata ("day's work"), and the different day stages can usually be seen in a large fresco, by a sort of seam that separates one from the next.

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—giving seven to nine hours working time. Once a giornata is dried, no more buon fresco can be done, and the unpainted intonaco must be removed with a tool before starting again the next day. If mistakes have been made, it may also be necessary to remove the whole intonaco for that area—or to change them later a secco.

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

For wholly a secco work, the intonaco is laid with a rougher finish, allowed to dry completely and then usually given a key by rubbing with sand. The painter then proceeds much as he would on a canvas or wood panel.

Conservation in Venetian Frescoes

The climate and environment of Venice has proved to be a problem for frescoes and other works of art in the city for centuries. The city is built on a lagoon in northern Italy. The humidity and the rise of water over the centuries have created a phenomenon known as rising damp. As the lagoon water rises and seeps into the foundation of a building, the water is absorbed and rises up through the walls often causing damage to frescoes. Venetians have become quite adept in the conservation methods of frescoes.

The following is the process that was used when rescuing frescos in La Fenice, a Venetian opera house, but it is the same process for similarly damaged frescoes. First, a protection and support bandage of cotton gauze and polyvinyl alcohol is applied. Difficult sections are removed with soft brushes and localized vacuuming. The other areas that are easier to remove (because they had been damaged by less water) are removed with a paper pulp compress saturated with bicarbonate of ammonia solutions and removed with deionized water. These sections are strengthened and reattached then cleansed with base exchange resin compresses and the wall and pictorial layer were strengthened with barium hydrate. The cracks and detachments are stopped with lime putty and injected with an epoxy resin loaded with micronized silica.

The earliest known examples frescoes done in the Buon Fresco method date at around 1500 BC and are to be found on the island of Crete in Greece. The most famous of these, The Toreador, depicts a sacred ceremony in which individuals jump over the backs of large bulls. While some similar frescoes have been found in other locations around the Mediterranean basin, particularly in Egypt and Morocco, their origins are subject to speculation.

Some art historians believe that fresco artists from Crete may have been sent to various locations as part of a trade exchange, a possibility which raises to the fore the importance of this art form within the society of the times. The most common form of fresco was Egyptian wall paintings in tombs, usually using the a secco technique.

Frescoes were also painted in ancient Greece, but few of these works have survived. In southern Italy, at Paestum, which was a Greek colony of the Magna Graecia, a tomb containing frescoes dating back to 470 BC, the so called Tomb of the Diver was discovered on June 1968. These frescoes depict scenes of the life and society of ancient Greece, and constitute valuable historical testimonials. One shows a group of men reclining at a symposium while another shows a young man diving into the sea.

Roman wall paintings, such as those at the magnificent Villa dei Misteri (1st century B.C.) in the ruins of Pompeii, and others at Herculaneum, were completed in buon fresco.

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

Late Roman Empire (Christian) 1st-2nd century frescoes were found in catacombs beneath Rome and Byzantine Icons were also found in Cyprus, Crete, Ephesus, Capadocia and Antioch. Roman frescoes were done by the artist painting the artwork on the still damp plaster of the wall, so that the painting is part of the wall, actually colored plaster.

Also a historical collection of Ancient Christian frescoes can be found in the Churches of Goreme Turkey.

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.

One of the greatest frescoes in the World can be found in SigiriyaThis was during the time of the great hydraulic civilization that these frescoes were created.[5- 6]centuries.This is considered a masterpiece of ancient frescoes.These are still clearly visible in Sigiriya,Sri Lanka.

Latin American Muralist movement

Jose Clemente Orozco, David Siqueiros and Diego Rivera the famous Mexican artists renewed the art of fresco painting in the 20th century. Orozco, Siqueiros, Rivera and his wife Frida Kahlo contributed more to the history of Mexican fine arts and to the reputation of Mexican art in general than anybody else. Rivera's large wall works in fresco established the Mexican Mural Renaissance together with works by Orozco, Siqueiros, and others.

Indian fresco

The frescoes on the ceilings and walls of the Ajanta Caves were painted between c. 200 BCE and 600. They depict the Jataka tales that are stories of the Buddha's life in former existences as Bodhisattva. The narrative episodes are depicted one after another although not in a linear order. Their identification has been a core area of research on the subject since the time of the site's rediscovery in 1819. The Chola fresco paintings were discovered in 1931 within the circumambulatory passage of the Brihadisvara Temple in India and are the first Chola specimens discovered.

Researchers have discovered the technique used in these frescos. A smooth batter of limestone mixture is applied over the stones, which took two to three days to set. Within that short span, such large paintings were painted with natural organic pigments.

During the Nayak period the chola paintings were painted over. The Chola frescos lying underneath have an ardent spirit of saivism is expressed in them. They probably synchronised with the completion of the temple by Rajaraja Cholan the Great.

Selected examples of Italian frescoes

Italian Early Medieval

Italian Late Medieval-Quattrocento

Italian "High Renaissance"

Italian Baroque

See also

References

External links

Fresco technique described

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