On Architecture

Vitruvius Pollio

Vitruvius Pollio, creator; Morgan, M. H. (Morris Hicky), 1859-1910, translator

1. I SHALL now pass to those substances which by artificial treatment are made to change their composition, and to take on the properties of colours; and first I shall treat of black, the use of which is indispensable in many works, in order that the fixed technical methods for the preparation of that compound may be known.


2. A place is built like a Laconicum, and nicely finished in marble, smoothly polished. In front of it, a small furnace is constructed with vents into the Laconicum, and with a stokehole that can be very carefully closed to prevent the flames from escaping and being wasted. Resin is placed in the furnace. The force of the fire in burning it compels it to give out soot into the Laconicum through the vents, and the soot sticks to the walls and the curved vaulting. It is gathered from them, and some of it is mixed and worked with gum for use as writing ink, while the rest is mixed with size, and used on walls by fresco painters.

3. But if these facilities are not at hand, we must meet the exigency as follows, so that the work may not be hindered by tedious delay. Burn shavings and splinters of pitch pine, and when they turn to charcoal, put them out, and pound them in a mortar with size. This will make a pretty black for fresco painting.

4. Again, if the lees of wine are dried and roasted in an oven, and then ground up with size and applied to a wall, the result will be a colour even more delightful than ordinary black; and the better the wine of which it is made, the better imitation it will give, not only of the colour of ordinary black, but even of that of India ink.

1. METHODS of making blue were first discovered in Alexandria, and afterwards Vestorius set up the making of it at Puzzuoli. The method of obtaining it from the substances of which it has been found to consist, is strange enough. Sand and the flowers of natron are brayed together so finely that the product is like meal, and copper is grated by means of coarse files over the mixture, like sawdust, to form a conglomerate. Then it is made into balls by rolling it in the hands and thus bound together for drying. The dry balls are put in an earthern jar, and the jars in

an oven. As soon as the copper and the sand grow hot and unite under the intensity of the fire, they mutually receive each other's sweat, relinquishing their peculiar qualities, and having lost their properties through the intensity of the fire, they are reduced to a blue colour.

2. Burnt ochre, which is very serviceable in stucco work, is made as follows. A clod of good yellow ochre is heated to a glow on a fire. It is then quenched in vinegar, and the result is a purple colour.