On Architecture

Vitruvius Pollio

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

7. Apaturius did not venture to make any answer, but removed

the scaena, altered it so that it conformed to reality, and gave satisfaction with it in its improved state. Would to God that Licymnius could come to life again and reform the present condition of folly and mistaken practices in fresco painting! However, it may not be out of place to explain why this false method prevails over the truth. The fact is that the artistic excellence which the ancients endeavoured to attain by working hard and taking pains, is now attempted by the use of colours and the brave show which they make, and expenditure by the employer prevents people from missing the artistic refinements that once lent authority to works.

8. For example, which of the ancients can be found to have used vermilion otherwise than sparingly, like a drug? But today whole walls are commonly covered with it everywhere. Then, too, there is malachite green, purple, and Armenian blue. When these colours are laid on, they present a brilliant appearance to the eye even although they are inartistically applied, and as they are costly, they are made exceptions in contracts, to be furnished by the employer, not by the contractor. I have now sufficiently explained all that I could suggest for the avoidance of mistakes in stucco work. Next, I shall speak of the components as they occur to me, and first I shall treat of marble, since I spoke of lime at the beginning.

MARBLE is not produced everywhere of the same kind. In some places the lumps are found to contain transparent grains like salt, and this kind when crushed and ground is extremely serviceable in stucco work. In places where this is not found, the broken bits of marble or “chips,” as they are called, which marble-workers throw down as they work, may be crushed and ground and used in stucco after being sifted. In still other places

—for example, on the borderland of Magnesia and Ephesus—there are places where it can be dug out all ready to use, without the need of grinding or sifting, but as fine as any that is crushed and sifted by hand.

As for colours, some are natural products found in fixed places, and dug up there, while others are artificial compounds of different substances treated and mixed in proper proportions so as to be equally serviceable.

1. We shall first set forth the natural colours that are dug up as such, like yellow ochre, which is termed w)/xra in Greek. This is found in many places, including Italy, but Attic, which was the best, is not now to be had because in the times when there were slaves in the Athenian silver mines, they would dig galleries underground in order to find the silver. Whenever a vein of ochre was found there, they would follow it up like silver, and so the ancients had a fine supply of it to use in the polished finishings of their stucco work.