What is a fresco? Mural painting

What is a fresco? Translated from the Italian word fresco means "fresh", "dry". In fact, this concept is associated with the unique art of temple wall painting, a special technique which requires the highest skill. The technique of "fresco on the wall" - is painting on wet affresco plaster. It is the opposite of asecco, painting on a dry surface. When the plaster painted with frescoes dries out, a thin film based on calcium lime is formed, which serves as a natural protection for the drawing. Thus, the image becomes literally eternal.

what is a fresco

Variety of ways

Today, the “fresco on the wall” method is used to create drawings of a sacred character inside the church, regardless of the technique or material with which the artist works. There are several ways that the master follows in his work. "Fresco on the ceiling" is the most difficult, it can only be painted lying down.

There are technologies when a secondary additional painting with tempera, oil or acrylic paints is made on an already finished, dried fresco.The most common technique of fresco painting is the so-called fresco buon, which means “pure fresco”. The first mention of this method contains the treatise of the Italian painter Cennino Cennini, who lived in the 15th century.

The history of wall paintings

When the first murals appeared, it is not known, one can only assume that in the era of the Aegean culture, in the second millennium BC, similar images already existed in the multitude. The paints were superimposed on a primitive base, reminiscent of casein glue, and the technique of the pattern defies any classification, it is clear only that it was closer to "asecco." The heyday of fresco painting falls on the antique period. Later, Christianity adopted this art, since it was the frescoes of the cathedral or church that most fully reflected the biblical subjects.

fresco on the wall


What is a fresco in terms of the artist himself? This is, above all, a fine, jeweler's work of the brush. Church murals differ in the study of the smallest details. An artist can write one plot for weeks, sometimes it seems that the work is standing still, the painter works so scrupulously.But when the fresco is finished, it is impossible to tear off the eyes from it.

In ancient times, mixed wall painting was in use in Russia, the main material was water-based paints, which were applied on wet plaster, and then supplemented with tempera on animal or vegetable glue, sometimes egg.

In Europe, people began to understand what a fresco is, with the beginning of the Renaissance. It was the church walls that became the main measure of the artist’s skill. The art of fresco painting flourished in Italy during the Renaissance. Great masters such as Michelangelo and Raphael worked in this area.

frescoes of the cathedral

Antique Murals

In the treatises of Vitruvius describes the technology of plastering the inner walls, which were later applied frescoes. These were lime-based mixtures applied in seven layers with smoothing to shine. Sand was added to the first two layers, to the next three - a clay composite, and marble crumb to the top two layers. In order to avoid cracks, the plaster was slightly diluted with water, and all layers were rammed.

For the fortress, reinforcing components, crushed brick, pumice, straw and hemp were added to the mixture.Multi-layered plastering contributed to slow drying, which gave the artist the opportunity to engage in painting for a long time. Then at the end of the work it was recommended to cover the frescoes with a mixture of olive oil and beeswax.

fresco mosaic

Byzantine frescoes

The most labor-intensive painting process is described in the “Yerminia of Dionysius” in the 17th century. The frescoes in Byzantium differed in variety and size. The plaster dried out before the work was done. The number of layers was gradually reduced, and in the end, instead of seven, they began to use only two layers. Instead of marble powder they began to introduce flax and tow, which retained moisture well. Cracks were removed by the addition of quicklime. The earliest Byzantine fresco painting is in the church of St. Mary in Rome. The surface of the drawings is polished, and further Byzantine artists abandoned this time-consuming process.

Old Russian Murals

The early Russian fresco painting was performed in the Byzantine style. Wet plaster was used for four days. The artists used this time to apply frescoes throughout the area.However, it was for four days that the primer for frescoes, levkas, acquired undesirable properties, and when applied to it paints irrevocably spoiled them by reacting with turpentine fillers.

fresco on the ceiling

The timing of the painting had to be drastically reduced. In the teachings of Bishop Nektarios, it is recommended not to leave the levkas "without a letter" for two hours and not to take lunch breaks. Still, the end of the work often coincided with the complete drying of the base. The last strokes were made with egg tempera, and already in the 18th century, frescoes began to be painted with oil paints. It is characteristic that the frescoes of Rublev, the famous icon painter, as well as Theophanes the Greek, his contemporary, were painted only with tempera paints.

Murals of Italian origin

What is the mural "buon"? Literally, it means "pure." In other words, it is a multilayer application of paint layers with intermediate drying. This technique is advantageous in speed, but it loses in the nuances of color solutions.

After some time, the fresco painting became phased. Dry works were finished by tempera paints “dry”, and this technique was completely justified, since artists had the opportunity to divide their work into separate segments and slowly do the work, knowingthat the factor of fast drying plaster no longer matters.

frescoes of the ruble

"Pure" technique

According to the "buon" method, an entire system was developed, a kind of guide, according to which the artist achieved an optimal result. The whole fresco, if its size was at least two square meters, was divided into separate sections, the norms of one day, the so-called jornates. In addition, the work was planned in height, so that when painting the upper sections not to splash the lower ones. Some frescoes were created by other technologies. From the 15th century there was a so-called fresco-mosaic, which was not painted, but laid out in small pieces of smalt or semi-precious stones.

At the end of the painting, the fresco must be sanded, often with a wax layer applied. The paintings of Perugino and Giotto were always polished to a shine, which gave them a peculiar image. Tintoretto and Tiepolo worked in the same fresco style.

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