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.


"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. [All this section - Ugo Procacci, in "Frescoes from Florence",pp. 15-25 1969, Arts Council, London.]

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.


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. [Ciacci, Leonardo., ed, La Fenice Reconstructed 1996-2003: a building site in the city,(Venezia: Marsilio, 2003),118.]

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.

elected examples of Italian frescoes

Italian Early Medieval
* CastelseprioItalian Late Medieval-Quattrocento
* Panels (including Giotto(?), Lorenzetti, Martini and others) in upper and lower Basilica of San Francesco d'Assisi
* Giotto, Cappella degli Scrovegni (Arena Chapel), Padua
* "Camposanto", Pisa
* Masaccio, Brancacci Chapel, Santa Maria del Carmine, Florence
* Ambrogio Lorenzetti, Palazzo Pubblico, Siena
* Piero della Francesca, Chiesa di San Francesco, Arezzo
* Ghirlandaio, "Cappella Tornabuoni", Santa Maria Novella, Florence
* "The Last Supper", Leonardo Da Vinci, Milan (technically a tempera on plaster and stone, not a true fresco [ [ Restoration of the Last Supper 1498 - Leonardo da Vinci 1452-1519 - The Last Supper St. Apostle John Comparison ] ] )
* Sistine Chapel Wall series: Botticelli, Perugino, Rossellini, Signorelli, and Ghirlandaio
* Luca Signorelli, Chapel of San Brizio, Duomo, Orvieto
* Luciano Medevici, a monochromatic fresco, destroyed in a fire in 1944.Italian "High Renaissance"
* Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling
* Raphael's Vatican Stanza
* Raphael's Villa Farnesina
* Giulio Romano's Palazzo del Tè, Mantua
* Mantegna, Camera degli Sposi, Palazzo Ducale, Mantua
* The dome of the Cathedral Santa Maria del Fiore of Florence

Italian Baroque
* The Loves of the Gods, Annibale Carracci, Palazzo Farnese
* Allegory of Divine Providence and Barberini Power, Pietro da Cortona, Palazzo Barberini
* Ceilings, Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, (New Residenz) Wurzburg, (Royal Palace) Madrid, (Villa Pisani) Stra, and others; Wall scenes (Villa Valmarana and Palazzo Labia)
* Nave ceiling, Andrea Pozzo, Sant'Ignazio, Rome

ee also

* Gambier Parry process
* Mural
* Sigiriya Frescoes


External links

* [ The Art and Nature of Fresco by Lucia Wiley]
* [ Museum of Ancient Inventions: Roman-Style Fresco, Italy, 50 AD]
* [ Fresco in today's interior decoration]
* [ Fresco examples from Italy] Fresco technique described
* [ Contemporary Fresco Painting Resource Center]
* [ Fresco Techniques]
* [ Fresco School]
* [ Sigiriya Frescoes, The Mary B. Wheeler Collection, University of Pennsylvania Library]
* [ High Fresco - The Art of Ben Long]

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  • fresco — fresco, ca adjetivo 1. (ser / estar, antepuesto / pospuesto) Que tiene una temperatura moderada o agradablemente fría: agua fresca, viento fresco. Esta casa es muy fresca. Mete el vino en la nevera para que esté bien fresco. La fresca brisa… …   Diccionario Salamanca de la Lengua Española

  • Fresco — de una mujer romana de Pompeya, c. 50 d. C …   Wikipedia Español

  • fresco — fresco, ca (Del germ. *frĭsk, nuevo, ágil). 1. adj. Moderadamente frío, con relación a nuestra temperatura, a la de la atmósfera o a la de cualquier otro cuerpo. 2. Reciente, acabado de hacer, de coger, etc. Queso fresco. U. t. en sent. fig.… …   Diccionario de la lengua española

  • fresco — FRÉSCO s.n. Ţesătură din fire subţiri de lână, uni sau cu efecte de culori, întrebuinţată mai ales pentru confecţionarea îmbrăcămintei de vară. – Din it. fresco. Trimis de zaraza joe, 03.05.2008. Sursa: DEX 98  a frésco loc. adv. Trimis de… …   Dicționar Român

  • Fresco — Тип …   Википедия

  • fresco — |ê| s. m. 1. Gênero de pintura sobre parede argamassada pouco antes. 2. Cena assim pintada. • Sinônimo geral: AFRESCO   ‣ Etimologia: italiano fresco fresco |ê| adj. 1. Que está um pouco frio (ex.: água fresca). 2. Nem frio, nem quente. =… …   Dicionário da Língua Portuguesa

  • Fresco — Frèsco, das Italiänische Wort fresco, frisch, und in engerm Verstande, frischer, d.i. nasser Kalk, die Mahlerey auf nassen Kalk zu bezeichnen. Al Fresco mahlen, auf nassen Kalk. Daher der Fresco Mahler, die Fresco Mahlerey …   Grammatisch-kritisches Wörterbuch der Hochdeutschen Mundart

  • fresco — [dal germ. frisk ]. ■ agg. (pl. m. chi ) 1. a. [di clima, aria, acqua, ecc., che, per la temperatura alquanto bassa, dà al corpo la sensazione di un freddo moderato e per lo più gradevole: una f. brezza ; una bibita f. ] ▶◀ rinfrescante.… …   Enciclopedia Italiana

  • fresco — 1590s, in fresco, lit. in fresh, with a sense of painted on fresh mortar or plaster, from It. fresco cool, fresh, from P.Gmc. *friskaz (see FRESH (Cf. fresh) (1)) …   Etymology dictionary

  • Fresco — Fres co, n.; pl. {Frescoes} or {Frescos}. [It., fr. fresco fresh; of German origin. See {Fresh}, a.] [1913 Webster] 1. A cool, refreshing state of the air; duskiness; coolness; shade. [R.] Prior. [1913 Webster] 2. (Fine Arts) (a) The art of… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

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