Where did Venetian plaster originate – and why is it called that?

 

Venetian plaster has its origins in Mesopotamia, the ancient cradle of civilisation, making it a full 9000 years old.  In that area, materials were being imported to build much stronger structures in desert regions than could be afforded by using wood.  The fundamental substance for this kind of plaster comes from compressed shells.

The method underwent a revival during the Renaissance due to the extensive initiatives of the influential architect Andrea Palladio, and so became associated with northern Italy, especially his district of Veneto.  This unusual type of plaster rapidly acquired popularity for its sophisticated effects, resembling genuine stonework on the facades and interiors of buildings of public importance.  

la_rotonda_andrea_palladio
la_rotonda_andrea_palladio

 

Up to 40% of marble dust was later added to the slaked limestone base in order to create a lustrous opalescent appearance, which was transformative; the quarries for natural marble were mainly located in the north of Italy.  New polishing techniques increased its durability which made it truly indispensable for the palazzos of Venice’s waterways, enabling the tidal waterline of the canal side structures to be protected from salt and friction erosion.

slaked-limestone
slaked-limestone

 

The final coat of polish is most often beeswax, a superior resource offering full resistance to damp and mould, yet allowing the plaster to breathe.  We can understand the wow factor of this magical plaster in its original context.  It is finding a strong foothold in Europe and many other countries for its beauty and hard-wearing nature.