Tuesday 14 June 2011

Article: The Temple of Venus (Pompeii): A study of the pigments and painting techniques

The Temple of Venus (Pompeii): A study of the pigments and painting techniques
Rebecca Piovesan, Ruth Siddall, Claudio Mazzoli and Luca Nodari

Journal of Archaeological Science, 2011

Available online 12 June 2011.


We report here on a study of 57 fragments of wall painting excavated from the Temple of Venus (Pompeii). These samples were characterised by a wide range of analytical methods. Data showed that the palette is varied, although not so broad as that found in other buildings in Pompeii, and is consistent with pigments used elsewhere in Pompeii and in the Roman Empire. It is composed of: natural earths, minerals and rare artificial pigments. Paintings are made up of thin paint layers (0.01-0.10 mm thick) strongly adhering to the underlying preparation layer. Nonetheless, in some cases thicker layers (up to 0.40 mm) were recognised, often spread on other previous painting layers. Samples were also compared with the microstratigraphic criteria developed in Piovesan (2009) to distinguish wall-painting techniques. This comparison demonstrated that both fresco and lime painting techniques were adopted.

► 9 pigments and 16 recipes were identified in the Temple of Venus (Pompeii). ► Carbon black, red and yellow ochres, cinnabar, Egyptian blue, green earth, limewash. ► A yellow and brown glassy pigment was characterized for the first time. ► A new Mössbauer portable spectrometer was successfully tested on wall paintings. ► The most adopted painting technique was fresco on lime plaster.

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