The Egyptians, Greeks and Romans appreciated the beauty of polished plaster. In the 1500’s, builders in Venice, trying to make buildings as light as possible so they wouldn’t sink into the mud underlying that city, enhanced lime plaster with marble dust to simulate the look of marble without the weight. The technique became known as venetian plaster (Stucco Veneziano, in Italian) and was used around Europe till the early 19th century.
During the 1950’s and 1960’s, Italian architect Carlo Scarpa made the technique popular again. Encouraging a cadre of artisans who revived and taught disused techniques, Scarpa and his disciples spread interest in Venetian plaster throughout Europe and to North America. The lagoon area of Venice had an abundance of wealth and a newly found appetite for classical architecture.
Traditional Venetian plaster consists of certain materials applied in a specific way. The material used is a lime putty containing marble flour and aged slaked lime. Lime from Europe is aged in underground pits, where it not only hydrates thoroughly but also absorbs trace elements from the surrounding rock. The lime and marble are ground to the fineness of talcum powder, so that the plaster can be troweled on in layers almost as thin as a paint film. Whilst some plasters are now made with synthetic acrylic resins, there is still some that hold true to the original recipe of lime and marble powder.
The most famous painting in the world “the mona lisa” hangs on a polished plastered wall
Venetian plaster can withstand the dampness and protect both interior and exterior walls from the elements. These lime plasters give more breathability and permeability to the substrate beneath the finish, and are resistant to the moisture and the saltiness that is typical of Venice.
The applicator’s skill in applying each layer is critical to the look and feel of the finished work. Colours can be combined for a richly opulent effect. With colour and texture you can create a look that is very old world, or dramatically contemporary.
Surface hardening takes place over weeks and months as the plaster is exposed to the carbon dioxide in the air and turns back to its original state… stone. It is an ecological finish; it contains no toxic chemicals and creates a dust-free, natural surface that is mould and mildew resistant, with colours that will age gracefully over generations. Many of the finishes can be used internally or externally, making them not only beautiful but also profoundly practical for both commercial and residential areas.