Preparing The Vault

In preparation for painting the elliptical vault above the academy’s central Cast Hall, the arriccio layer of plaster had been allowed to cure thoroughly for a period of twelve months. (See previous post ~ Plastering the Vault). In the interim the decision was made to adapt this project not only to train and showcase the work of our Mural Guild but in doing so, to employ a variety of techniques used in traditional architectural decoration. Serving as focal points, the two lunettes at either end of the gallery will be executed in buon fresco as originally planned. The ceiling vault, by contrast, will now be painted in a lime wash technique known as fresco-secco, which in turn may be combined with tempera overpainting. This was the technique employed in the Brumidi Corridors of the US Capitol Building, seen on the Special Academy Tour arranged during the recent Capitol Dome Restoration project.

The images above show the final application of the intonaco layer of plaster. This painstaking process is necessary to perfect the geometry of the curved vault while providing a smooth even surface upon which the design may be realized. Next, a small team of advanced academy students, led by Patrick Webb make a carefully measured drawing of the ceiling compartments in charcoal which are then dusted back before being painted in lime wash and outlined in a darker accent color. These geometric divisions will subsequently be filled with the figurative and ornamental patterns to support the theme of the ceiling decoration, once the full-scale cartoon studies have been completed.

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