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Fresco Painting

plaster, air, means, materials, chalk, artist and employed

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FRESCO PAINTING, a peculiar mode of painting, per t i by employ ing colours mixed and ground with water urn a stucco, or plaster, sufficiently fresh and wet to imbibe and embody the c(douis with itself: The term fresco, as applied to painting. is said to have been adopted because the practice of it is used in the open air; andare al fresco signi ing. '• to take the air," or " walk abroad in the air :" but it seems more probable that another meaning of the word fresco has given rise to this particular adopti(to of it, viz., new, or fresh, relative to the state of the plaster on which it is wrought. Vitruvius (lib. vii. cap. 4.) calls it ado leclorio. It is very ancient, having been practised in the earliest ages of Greece and Rome.

The theory of the art of painting extends its principles to all modes of execution, because theoretic rules are drawn from nature, which is the object of all imitation, and are independent of the means employed in producing the intended effect. We propose, therefore. in this place, only to treat of the mode of execution. and (tithe materials employed in fresco painting; such observations as the recent revival of the art has rendered necessary, being deterred till after our descrip tion of the practice.

Previous.y to the commencement of a painting in fresco, it is necessary that a careful examination should be made of the fitness of the place to receive it. The artist must assure him therefore. in the first place, of the perfect construction of the walls, or ceilings, on which he intends to employ his genius, and entrust his reputation : above all, he must be careful to make it secure from damp.

Satisfied o ith the construction of the wall, it is then necessary the artist should see to the proper management of the first lay er of plaster with w Rich it is covered. The materials employed for building in different countries will vary according to the nature of those most easy to be obtained : and therefore it will, of course, be necessary to adopt means for rendering tho•e not perfectly proper in themselves to receive fresco painting, more so by artificial means. Brick is

certainly the one hest ca culated to hold the plaster perfectly ; laid. on account of its absorbing quality, and from the small ness of the size of the bricks causing a number of interstices between them ; which irregularity in the surface greatly assists in retaining the plaster in adherence. A wall built of rough stones fill of holes may also be relied upon as a good foundation it• fresco; but instead of that, it be constructed of smooth or polished stones, it will then be necessary to render it uneven by making holes in it, fastening nails, and small wedges of wood, to hold the plaster together, and pre vent its falling off. These precautions are of the utmost con sequence to prevent its bending or cracking. which the least alteration that happens to the materials, or even a change of weather, producing alternately wet or dry, may occasion.

The first layer of plaster may be coin posed of well-washed chalk made into a cement with pounded brick, or river sand ; the last is better, being rather the coarsest, and pro ducing thereby a roughness of surface which will better retain the second coat.

Tarras, composed of pounded sea-sand and chalk or lime, would perhaps be better still. The ancients had certainly a better compost for this purpose than that at present known; if we may judge from that which still covers many of their buildings; particularly the aqueduct they constructed near Naples, and the walls of the ruins of Herculaneum.

Before the second layer is given, the first must be perfectly dry, on account of a disagreeable and noxious vapour which issues from the lime in drying ; but when it is so, and you proceed to give it the second coating, upon which the paint ing is done, it must be wetted with water, that the two may more completely incorporate. This layer, which requires to be more carefully prepared than the first, is made Itr mixing river-sand of an even and tine grain with chalk, which has been burnt several months beitre, and exposed to the air, as by that means the artist may be more shire of its general decomposition and freedom from stony parts.

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