Pompeii: Its Life and Art

By August Mau; Francis W. Kelsey | Go to book overview

CHAPTER LIV
PAINTING. -- WALL DECORATION

THE inner walls of houses and public buildings at Pompeii were plastered, and usually decorated with colors; only storerooms, kitchens, and apartments designed for the use of slaves were left in the white. Outer walls were as a rule plastered, except when built of hewn stone, a kind of construction not employed after the Tufa Period. Stucco was occasionally used on faqades of ashlar work where special ornamentation seemed to be needed, as at the entrance of the house of the Faun; and in later times, now and then, a front with reticulate or brick facing was left unplastered. Previous to the time of Augustus the stucco coating of outer walls ordinarily remained uncolored. Afterwards color was employed, but only to a limited extent, as in the addition of a dark base to a wall the rest of which remained white.

The painting upon Pompeian walls, as shown by the painstaking investigations of Otto Donner, was fresco, that is, executed in water colors upon the moist stucco of a freshly plastered surface. The method of preparing the wall was less elaborate than that recommended by Vitruvius, who advises the use of seven coats of plaster, first a rough coat, then three of sand mortar and three of stucco made with powdered marble, each coat being finer than the one preceding. In the better rooms, however, we find upon the walls at least one, often several, layers of sand mortar, and one or more coats of marble stucco; the entire thickness of the plastering varies from two to three inches. In unfinished or neglected rooms walls are sometimes found with a single coat of sand mortar. Occasionally powdered brick was used in the stucco as a substitute for marble dust.

Plastering so thick as that ordinarily used must have remained moist for a considerable length of time, much longer than the

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