Fresco paintings of children, for children, with Dr Alan Pascuzzi
One of the most strange but also important things to understand about fresco painting is that it is a science as well as an art form. The material used in creating the base of a fresco is a complex chemical mix of marble de-constructed at a furiously high temperature by removing the H2O element, which is reconstructed as a paste by the simple addition of more water – river water that is – definitely not salt water as that would ruin the chemical process ……and, as the resultant material dries out again, the natural colours of the fresco paint are literally incorporated into the stone crust of the wall. The minute the fresco paste is fixed to the wall the race is on to get the picture completed before the chemical process has finished and the dry stone material has ceased to take in any more paint.
Becoming part of the stone is the key reason why fresco colours remain so fresh – fresh is the translation of fresco from Italian – and when a fresco is restored it is not repainted as many people think, but simply thoroughly cleaned to remove the dust and grime of ages and thus returned to its original colour.
One of the many impressive things about working with Alan Pascuzzi is that nothing really seems to faze him.
I originally asked him to run a workshop for two adults and three children , which rapidly became three adults and five children – the day before the event we added another adult and on the day we arrived with four painting adults, five children …and a dog!
Okay – he smiled – the more the merrier – fortunately the dog is exceptionally well behaved!
This course had to be adapted a little across the age groups but I think everyone did a great job with their portraits of children selected from the Sassetti Chapel in Chiesa Santa Trinita painted by Domenico Ghirlandaio in 1433- 36.
Francesco Sassetti, an important member of the Medici Bank, and his young son Federico are shown below with the ruler of Florence of this period Lorenzo de Medici – aka Il Magnifico – the Magnificent. Having friends in such high places had enabled Sassetti to have paintings of his name saint, St Francis of Assisi, decorating the walls in this historically Dominican Church.
The little guy sitting up in the middle of the picture below has just been restored to life by St Francis, who is giving his blessing under an arch in the sky. He had fallen out of the window of what is now the huge Ferragamo building and if you look closely at the back of this image you can see him falling, and a man running to save him, – sadly too late to break his fall.
It always amuses me in this fresco to see the man on the right side of the bridge who seems to be repairing the road ……I have rarely seen that bridge when there wasn’t work in progress on it – clearly some things never change! Domenico Ghirlandaio has included himself as a well wisher in this scene – he is standing to the far right of the fresco with his hand on his hip looking out of the painting at the audience as only painters and donors were able to do in Renaissance images.
So here are some fun photos of the work the group created – Alan asked several questions at the beginning of the session to really get the kids involved in the process and they responded beautifully with the correct answers. Bearing in mind their ages, (5-9), these images are really impressive – and nobody has ever claimed that fresco painting was easy!
But first up – Is this a new twist on Dad dancing?
So thanks to everyone who took part in the lessons – I hope that you enjoyed the painting and the refresher trip to Santa Trinita afterwards – plus of course the obligatory freshly made gelato to celebrate at the end of the day!
After all we are in Florence – where fresh ice-cream is as much a part of the package as fresco!