Decorative Venetian plaster has a rich heritage, dating back several thousand years. The origins of Venetian Plaster can be traced as far back as the 1st century AD, to Mesopotamia. In fact, Limestone, which is the base for lime mortars, lime putty and lime paint, is as old as the earth itself. It originates in sea beds from many compressed layers of crushed shell which takes thousands, if not millions, of years to form.
Venetian Plaster became popular in the Roman Empire in the 4th Century as a way to imitate natural stone surfaces inside palazzos, villas and cathedrals. Artisans would blend lime plaster with marble dust and pigments to create the compound plaster and then trowel the plaster onto walls or ceilings in multiple thin layers with short, overlapping strokes.
Venetian plastering techniques were largely forgotten in the Middle Ages, but this technique of interior and exterior home decoration became popular once again during the Renaissance when 16th century Italian architect, Palladio, held in high regard as one of the most influential builders of the Venetian republic, re-discovered these decorative plasters when sourcing a lightweight solution for Venetian noble buildings. As the city of Venice was built on water, and the buildings were constructed on stilts, a lightweight plaster needed to be used. Artists and architects embraced the technique and it became a highly desirable wall finish.
In fact, many of the great artworks of that time such as Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel use a similar method. We call this method Fresco. It is a technique of mural painting onto freshly laid, wet, lime plaster. During this time a new decorative plaster appeared that resembled marble, but much lighter in colour. This was called Marmorino. Marmorino was used throughout Venice, primarily on the external surface of buildings. This is because it was necessary to keep them as light and water-tight as possible. Palladio used Marmorino in the entire Veneto region of Italy.
Today, Venetian Plaster continues to be used in many residences and businesses throughout the world. The combining of modern-day technology and ancient methods has seen Venetian Plaster moving into the 21st century where a resurgence in its popularity as a luxurious finish continues to grow.