A brief history of Italian Plaster


 Humans have always decorated the walls of their shelters. In pre-historic times, the first artists used just a few earth pigments bound with animal fat to paint the walls of their caves with scenes of hunting and daily life. In ancient Egypt, artists painted the walls of tombs and sarcophagi with a still-limited palette of earth pigments using waxes and gums as binders; the ancient Greek palette also included primary colors, which they used to decorate their temples. The ancient Romans invented mural painting, mixing their earth- and plant-based pigments with water-based binders to paint frescoes featuring faux moldings, marble-izing, and other forms of ornamentation. During the 19th century, decorative painting reached glorious heights, and again in the 1920s and ’30s.

Demand fostered the emergence and subsequent growth of art materials manufacturing. Advancements in paint chemistry produced new pigments, and the introduction of synthetic resins and binders eventually led to the widespread ease of use of premixed house paints and wallpapers. After WWII, the craft declined to its lowest point, a result of the rejection of academic standards of aesthetics and traditional painting techniques, in favor of innovative styles and techniques practiced by such influential artists as Picasso and Matisse. Today, some form of decorative painting - most commonly stenciling, glazing, marbling and mural painting - can be found in virtually every home. The prevalence of faux finishing is due, in part, to the widespread accessibility of the right materials, reference books, seminars, and other sources. Decorative painting is a craft practiced by trained technicians, technicians with a disciplined commitment to methods and aesthetic sensibility. Today's decorative painter is an heir to a legacy that was once passed on from master to apprentice.

*Pintura Decorativa por Andres Berenson.  Translation by Carlos Mendoza.

Decorative Plaster 

Most of the decorative paste plaster used today is for interior applications. “Stucco veneziano,” also known as Venetian plaster, delivers a highly decorative, glossy finish. It is a natural formula composed of organic ingredients, calcium, and binders, inspired by the ornate plaster work of the great masters and architects during the Renaissance in Italy. Decorative plaster such as Venetian plaster has a millennial history, but it was Andrea Palladio, a famous Italian architect, who in the sixteenth century rediscovered it through his studies and re-purposed it in the splendid villas that are still to this day the distinguished mark of his career. "Stucco veneziano" is an aesthetic solution that, step by step, conquered Venice and Lombardy, and finally the entirety of Europe in the seventeenth century. Traditional Marmorino plaster can be interpreted as little bits of marble. It was recognized by the Romans as a decorative wall covering, marmorino, sometimes also known as lime spatula, and it has quite an interesting history. It has been officially proven by historians that other cultures such as the Ancient Greeks, Etruscans, and even Egyptians commonly used tinted “Marmorino” to decorate and construct walls still existent and intact today.

Physical and Composition Advantages of Venetian plaster:

  • Perhaps one of the greatest features other than the look and texture of these decorative plasters is its natural composition which serves many purposes.
  • The slaked lime binder found in the Lime Spatula material is a natural disinfectant that bears anti-molding and fungus-fighting capabilities.Due to their porous nature, these materials actually breathe. Absorbing humidity and oxygen, these plaster surfaces provide natural climate-controlling aspects not found in any known synthetic paint or wall covering.
  • -It has an amazing hardening effect, attaching to the surface it is applied to with amazing force, making it a durable finish, free of synthetic and environmentally hazardous materials.

Today, decorative plaster is seeing a revival in the new world. Today, the terms “Venetian plaster” and “marmorino” have been expanded to include a range of decorative, integrally colored plasters and stuccos reminiscent of the finishes during the Renaissance in Venice. The materials are at home in both exteriors and interiors of high-end residential and commercial structures and can express both traditional and contemporary design motifs. NO FAUX, sometimes they are referred as part of faux painting technique which uses glazes and standard paints. These plaster finishes are not faux finishes, but authentic mineral-based materials with a visual and tactile appeal not available from ordinary paint finishes. They come in a wide range of textures: “veneziano,” for example, produces an almost translucent finish in which thin patches are applied layer upon layer with special tools to create a burnished surface that can range from satin to high gloss. Marmorino has a heavier body for producing creative, textured interior and exterior finishes. They can be combined with other materials, glazes, waxes, color washes and gilding for a more highly dramatic effect.

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