For centuries people have been mesmerized by the intrinsic beauty and enduring elegance of a decorative plaster technique that has become known as Stucco Veneziano, or Venetian plaster. The term “Venetian plaster” is actually a misnomer; a generic marketing term coined in the United States to cover a wide range of products including cheap synthetic finishes aimed at the DIY market. Though many of these “plasters” are inexpensive and easy to apply, they lack the depth, beauty and durability of authentic lime-based plasters and prove less cost-effective over time. True lime plaster, which many Italians call Marmorino, generally refers to a smooth, shiny polished plaster but can be categorized further by region, the size of the marble grain and by its texture or luster.
As the Renaissance transitioned into the Baroque period, the popularity of polished plaster subsided just as it had after the fall of the Roman Empire. Marmorino enjoyed a revival in the 1950s when venerable architect Carlo Scarpa, reinvented the dying craft, creating new finishes like “Stucco Lustro” replacing lime with animal hide glues and acrylic resins. Scarpa introduced brilliant, innovative finishes using the interplay of form, light and color to stunning effect in projects like the Banco Popolare in Verona.
Mirabilis Finishes uses only the finest, natural lime-based plasters imported from Italy. These materials contain no synthetic additives and have a minimum of 42% real Italian Marble. While many of the latest acrylic finishes attempt to simulate the appearance of the old techniques, the richness, visual depth and sensuous touch of genuine Stucco Veneziano far surpasses that of any other finish.
The aesthetic impact of polished Venetian lime plaster is immediate, affecting one on a subliminal level. The rich colors and textures, the warm natural radiance of the lime, the manner in which light plays off the crushed marble aggregates and penetrates the pigmented limestone, transforms ordinary ceilings and walls into veritable works of art.
In the 4th century BC, the Romans discovered that when limestone was mixed with volcanic ash it would harden and cure even under the wettest conditions. During the first Roman empire, Marcus Vitruvious Pollio wrote a treatise on the science of building in which he describes a seven-coat plaster application the Romans referred to as Marmoratum Opus: “marble capable of taking on a high shine.” Marmorino as we know it today dates back to 15th century Venice, the ancient recipes, almost forgotten over the centuries, were rediscovered during the Renaissance. In sea-level Venice it was impractical--if not impossible--to use heavy marble slabs and stone for structures, so the architects and artisans of the period, having absorbed the lessons from antiquity, experimented further with colored marble dust, pigments and layering techniques. Numerous layers of this rendering were spread thinly onto walls, the final coats often burnished for a decorative effect. Over time the plaster cured and returned to it's natural state of stone, creating an extremely durable, mold-resistant finish, ideally suited to the damp ambience of the Venetian lagoon. This allowed artisans to emulate the sheen and luster of marble at a fraction of the weight and cost. These refined recipes and techniques are used to this day.