Frescoes, in a Flash: Nagoya Institute of Technology Researchers Create Frescoes in a Single Day

Using a novel paint pigment, a cold sintering technique, and “supercritical” carbon dioxide, frescoes can be created within a single day

NAGOYA, Japan, Jan. 31, 2023 /PRNewswire/ — Frescoes, religious paintings from medieval Europe, require several decades to form. Now, researchers have successfully created a fresco in a single day using a novel technique that mimics the formation of sedimentary rocks in the Earth’s crust.

Frescoes, popular paintings from medieval Europe, are painted on a wet slaked lime plaster wall with natural rock pigments. The plaster, consisting of calcium hydroxide, reacts with water vapor and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to form a protective coating over the pigments, preserving the painting. However, this process takes place over decades, making frescoes a rarely practiced art form.

Now, a group of researchers from the Department of Life Science and Applied Chemistry at the Nagoya Institute of Technology in Japan, including Professor Shinobu Hashimoto, Mr. Keitaro Yamaguchi, and Prof. Yuji Iwamoto, rapidly fabricated frescoes through a ceramic cold sintering technique that was “geomimetic”, or inspired by the natural rock formation processes taking place in the Earth’s crust.

Their work was made available online on 4th November 2021 and published in Volume 48, Issue 4 of Ceramics International on 15th February 2022. Watch a video summarizing their research here:

Prof. Hashimoto explains, “This method employs a warm press to heat calcium hydroxide powder up to 300 °C under the high pressure of several hundred megapascals, which hardens the powder, forming the base material for frescoes.”

The researchers painted on these fabricated bases using red iron oxide pigment powder. They further used supercritical carbon dioxide, a fluid form of carbon dioxide obtained at very high temperature and pressure, for calcium carbonate deposition on the painted surface.

To ensure pigment durability, the researchers subjected the painting to a warm press before the carbon dioxide treatment. Further, to ensure an even coating and sufficient translucency, they mixed the pigment and calcium hydroxide powders for painting instead of powder coating the fresco. A 1:10 pigment-to-hydroxide ratio by mass was sufficient to immobilize the pigment particles and showed appreciable color development. In fact, the pigment color of this novel formulation was brighter than even the original pure pigment.

Prof. Hashimoto puts into perspective the enormity of the present work. “Using our technique, a fresco, that takes hundreds of years to form, was successfully created in one day. This could facilitate unfired pottery technology for a low-energy society. Paying attention to traditional fields as past technologies can contribute to the latest advancements.”   

The new technique will bring a breath of fresh air into the time-honored art of fresco painting!


Title of paper: Rapid fabrication of frescoes using a geomimetic ceramic formation process

Journal: Ceramics International

Azusa Yabugami
+81 52-735-5091

SOURCE Nagoya Institute of Technology