For Day 188 of the VM_365 project the image shows another fragment of the painted plaster from Minster. This time showing a delicate yellow painted swag painted overpainted on a dark blue grey background. The centre of the swag is filled with a lighter blue grey pigment. An abstract leaf is picked out in green paint under the end of one of the finer swags, which are probably meant to suggest the stems of a plant.
Perhaps we should pause to consider the artist who painted these freehand patterns. Each of the patterns is painted using a ‘fresco’ type of technique where the paints are bonded into a fine layer of plaster skim over the thick coat that covered the walls below. These thin plaster layers and all the patterns would have had to have been applied and painted in a single process, perhaps in sections over the space of a whole room, and then over the extensive area of the villa.
Although to our eyes the painting can sometimes appear gaudy, there are sections of delicate painting that indicate skill and control of pigments and drawing. Perhaps there was a team of painters with some delegated to covering large areas of ground with colour washes, borders and easily produced geometric patterns and borders. Perhaps only a master-painter would have been trusted to produce the finer free hand elements and the figurative work that lifted the panels into a higher artistic plane.
In later centuries the master painters of Fresco painting have become household names, yet the paintings and painters who contributed to the Minster Villa, although perhaps equally skilled, are largely forgotten.