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.
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.
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.
What is Faux painting or Faux finishing?
Faux Painting and Faux finishing are terms used to describe a wide range of decorative painting techniques. From the French word for "fake", faux painting began as a form of replicating materials such as marble and wood with paint, but has come to encompass many other decorative finishes for walls and furniture.
Faux finishing has been used for millennia, from cave painting to Ancient Egypt, but what we generally think of as faux finishing in Decorative Arts began with Plaster and Stucco Finishes in Mesopotamia over 5000 years ago.
Faux became hugely popular in Classical times in the forms of faux Marble, faux Wood, and Trompe l'oeil Murals. Artists would apprentice for 10 years or more with a master faux painter before working on their own. Great recognition was rewarded to artist who could actually trick viewers into believing their work was the real thing. Faux painting has continued to be popular throughout the ages, but experienced major resurgences in the neoclassical revival of the nineteenth century and the Art Deco styles of the 1920s. Throughout the recent history of decorative painting, faux finishing has been mainly used in commercial and public spaces.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s faux finishing saw another major revival, as wallpaper began to fall out of fashion. At this point, faux painting started to become extremely popular in home environments, with high end homes leading the trends. While it can be quite expensive to hire a professional faux finisher, many faux painting methods are simple enough for a beginning home owner to create with a little instruction. People are also attracted to the simplicity of changing a faux finish, as it can be easily painted over compared with the hassle of removing wallpaper.
In modern day faux finishing, there are two major materials/processes used. Glaze work involves using a translucent mixture of paint and glaze applied with a brush, roller, rag, or sponge, and often mimics textures, but it always smooth to the touch. Plaster work can be done with tinted plasters, or washed over with earth pigments, and is generally applied with a trowel or spatula. The finished result can be either flat to the touch or textured.
Marbleizing or faux marbling is used to make walls and furniture look like real marble. This can be done using either plaster or glaze techniques.
Graining, wood graining, or faux bois (French for "fake wood") is often used to imitate exotic or hard-to-find wood varieties.
Trompe l'oeil, "trick the eye" in French, is a realistic painting technique often used in murals, and to create architectural details.
Venetian plaster is a smooth and often shiny plaster design that appears textured but is smooth to the touch. Venetian plaster is one of the most popular and traditional plaster decorations.
Color wash is a free-form finish that creates subtle variations of color using multiple hues of glaze blended together with a paint brush.
Strie, from the French word meaning "stripe" or "streak", is a glazing technique that creates soft thin streaks of color using a paint brush. It is a technique often used to simulate fabrics such as linen and denim.
Rag painting or ragging is a glazing technique using twisted or bunched up rags to create a textural pattern.
What is a Glaze?
A glaze in painting refers to a layer of paint, thinned with a medium, so as to become somewhat transparent. A glaze changes the color cast or texture (gloss or matte, for instance) of the surface. Drying time depends on the amount of medium used in the glaze; a higher ratio of medium to paint (producing a very thin, transparent glaze) decreases drying time, while unadulterated oil paint takes the longest to dry.
A traditional oil painting begins with a grisaille in a gray or yellow ochre, as a monochromatic version of the finished piece. When this is dry, the painter begins to add layers of glaze in different colors, letting each layer dry before adding the next one. Since the layers are all somewhat transparent, the result is a combination of the colors, creating a final hue as if the painter has simply mixed the colors. The benefit of glazing is that not only does it afford the painter more control over the evolution of the painting, but it also creates a luminescent, translucent surface, with certain layers appearing to show through. Many artists consider this an important aspect to the vitality of a piece.
As glazing darkens a painting (similar to the way a color gel can dim a light), painters often repeatedly glaze surfaces that they want to recede into the canvas, such as a background wall or figure. Mixing a glaze with a small amount of white allows the painter to maintain the intensity of a highlight. Many oil paintings can have anywhere between three and thirty layers of glaze.
When the technique is used for wall glazing, the entire surface is covered, often showing traces of texture (French brush, parchment, striae, rag rolling). Either oil-based or water-based materials are used for glazing walls, depending upon the desired effect. Kerosene or linseed oil may be used to extend the "open" or working time of oil-based glazes. Water-based glazes are sometimes thinned with glycerin or another wetting agent to extend the working time. In general, water glazes are best suited to rougher textures where overlaps of color are acceptable.
Glaze is also used in cabinet, furniture, and faux finishing.
The Artistree Inc. is a Faux Finish and Venetian Plaster company servicing all of Northeast Florida. We are located in Jacksonville Beach Florida. We service Ponte Vedra Beach, Atlantic Beach, Jacksonville Beach, Neptune Beach and St. Augustine. We offer Custom Faux Finishes, Custom Venetian Plaster, Exotic Plasters, Murals, Fine Art, Local Fine Art and Commissioned Art. William Meyer and Peter Roesler proudly support art and culture in the Jacksonville area. You can see our custom fine art at theJacksonville Beach Art Walk and the Dowtown Jacksonville Art Walk. If you are interested in commissioning a custom art piece please contact us at 904.434.2185.