Week 1: Fresco

Well technically this is the second week that I’ve had fresco, but the first that we’ve started on the wall. My class is a small 6 people, and is my most intimate class that I think I have ever had. For those of you who do not know what fresco is, the definition Professor William Pettit gave us was: The name “fresh” refers to the process of paintings into a fresh, or wet plaster surface. As the surface dries the particles of color are absorbed and become part of the surface structure as it hardens. This final surface is called Intonaco. Since the pigment becomes part of the molecular matrix of the wall, it is extremely long lasting.

So in layman’s terms, we use minerals to work on wet fresh plaster (therefore the name fresco) to create a long lasting piece of art. In Rome this is prominent in churches and was often used as a trompe l’oeil for marble and other effects because it was significantly less money.



This fresco was from the last semester and in all honesty, it’s not my favorite. So the first thing to do is tear it down with hammers and anything else that was had in hand.

Next we make a mortar made of 3 parts sand to 1 part lime. The consistency is a lot like butter and we want it to be stiff, but not crumbling. This first layer of three that we are making is called an arriccio, which is used on this surface because we do not know if the concrete underneath has salt that would suck moisture out of the plaster. It is also porous and often used to level out the wall. You should note that the wall needs to be saturated with water before putting the arriccio layer on and should be leveled with a long wooden float and have time to set.

IMG_0583 This is the final destroyed wall and the dark grey areas are where we filled in the arriccio layer.

If you ever want to attempt this at home (I don’t know what you do on your free time), be aware that lime dries out your hands incredibly fast. Also note that fresco is a collaborative project that should be worked on with people. All because Michelangelo supposedly kicked his assistants out of the Sistine Chapel while working doesn’t mean that you can do it too. If anything it can be team bonding exercise! And trust me carrying all of the sand, lime, and marble dust does turn into a workout.

Ciao until next week!


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