Venetian plaster

Venetian plaster

Venetian plaster (or Stucco Veneziano) is a faux painting or faux finishing technique using thin layers of plaster applied with a spatula or trowel and then burnished to create a smooth surface with the illusion of depth and texture. []


The oldest plasters were found in Mesopotamia (region between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers in west Asia) around 9000 BC. People of 'Ain Ghazal in Jordan (around 7500 BC) used lime mixed with unheated crushed limestone to make plaster which was used on a large scale for covering walls, floors, and hearths in their houses. Often, walls and floors were decorated with red, finger-painted patterns and designs.

In ancient India and China, renders in clay and gypsum plasters were used to produce a smooth surface over rough stone or mud brick walls, while in early Egyptian tombs, walls were coated with lime and gypsum plaster and the finished surface was often painted or decorated. Greeks took recipe from Egyptians and they improved it. Greeks philosopher and historian Theofrast (360 BC) precisely described fabrication and application of plaster. Modeled stucco was used throughout the Roman Empire. The Romans used mixtures of lime and sand to build up preparatory layers over which finer applications of gypsum, lime, sand and marble dust were made; pozzolanic materials were sometimes added to produce a more rapid set. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the addition of marble dust to plaster to allow the production of fine detail and a hard, smooth finish in hand-modeled and molded decoration was not used until the Renaissance. Around the 4th century BC, the Romans discovered the principles of the hydraulic set of lime, which by the addition of highly reactive forms of silica and alumina, such as volcanic earths, could solidify rapidly, even under water. Hydraulic mortar was rarely used after the Roman period, until the 18th century.

Middle ages

Plaster decoration was widely used in Europe in the middle Ages where, from the mid-13th century, gypsum was used for internal and external plaster. Animal hair was employed as reinforcement, with additives to assist set or plasticity including malt, beer, milk and eggs. In the 14th century, decorative troweled plaster, called pargeting was being used in Southeast England to decorate the exterior of timber-framed buildings. This is a form of incised, molded or modeled ornament, executed in lime putty or mixtures of lime and gypsum plaster. During this same period, terracotta was reintroduced into Europe and was widely used for the production of ornament. In the mid-15th century, Venetian skilled workers developed a new type of external facing, called Marmorino.

From the 16th century

In the 16th century, stuccoists working in Bavaria invented a new, highly decorative type of decorative internal plasterwork, called scagliola. This was composed of gypsum plaster, animal glue and pigments, used to imitate colored marbles and pietre dure ornament. Sand or marble dusts, and lime, were sometimes added. In this same century, the sgraffito technique, also known as Italian artists introduced graffito or scratch work into Germany, combining it with modeled stucco decoration. This technique was practiced in antiquity and was described by Vasari as being a quick and durable method for decorating building facades. The 17th century saw the introduction of different types of interior plasterwork. That period was golden age for scagliola artists (mostly Italian monks) brought this type of plaster to near-perfection.

Modern Venetian plaster finishes are often made with acrylic based plasters, and sealed with water-based waxes.

ee also

* Faux painting
* Marbling
* Strie
* Color wash
* Rag painting

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