Museum of Ancient Inventions: Roman-Style Fresco

Roman-Style Fresco, Italy, 50 CE

While frescoes did not reach their height of popularity until the High Italian Renaissance in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, the art was practiced long before. The first frescoes were carefully planned and executed, section by section. Lime was let to soak for several months to form a suitable plaster, then a section only large enough to be painted in one day was applied to a wall in layers so that the lime would not dry until evening. Mostly earth tones were used due to the bleaching tendencies of the lime on blue hues. A film of calcium carbonate would form over the painting as it dried, making the wall extremely durable and washable.

Method of Construction

Constructed by: Elizabeth Abram

This fresco is in the Roman style circa 45-70 CE, similar to the frescoes that decorated the walls of the wealthy villas of Pompeii and Herculeneum. It has a fern garland around the perimeter, which encircles a bridge and a road. I used plaster of paris, which is made of calcium sulfate and reacts similarly to the slaked lime of the originals. I also used watercolors, which bonded to the plaster because of their water base, as opposed to oils, which would have floated on the surface of the plaster. I did several test frescoes to determine the proper mixtures of plaster and how many coats would provide the optimum painting.

Sources, Resources and Links

Ling, Roger. Roman Painting. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1991.

Rozenberg, Silvia. Enchanted Landscapes: Wall Paintings from the Roman Era. Israel: R. Sirkis Publishers, Ltd. and Bible Lands Museum Jerusalem, 1993.


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