Project Description

The Domus Aurea pigment show

One of the incredible things about encaustic is the way the pigments show their tones and brightness.

These vivid and magic pigments already impressed painters like Raphael or Michelangelo when they first saw the wall paintings at the roman Villa “Domus Aurea” (69 A.C.) soon after it was accidentally discovered  at the end of the 15th Century.

Renaissance painters where aware of the limitations of the color palette in background fresco painting, where using certain pigments like vermillion, minium, alizarin, titanium or Ivory black pigments in large areas was totally inadvisable, since they proved to be very unstable when in contact with the lime mortar.


Domus Aurea golden hall’s ceiling, Francisco de Holanda. 1537-1540

They must have been totally shocked when they saw those roman wall paintings showing those magnificent and continuous backgrounds, they “discovered” the magic of wax as an extraordinary pigment binder. Leonardo had a try but I will talk about it sometime in another post.

Although not much has survived till modern times, we can have an idea of what the Domus Aurea was upon its discovery looking at some illustrations on travelers notes like the ones from the portuguese renaissance painter Francisco de Holanda.

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