Wall Painting in Medieval Europe

Wall painting was an art form common to all of Romanesque Europe. In fact, Romanesque architecture lent itself particularly well to the display of vast painted cycles covering large, blank walls. However, the method used differed depending on the regions concerned. The benchmark technique remained that of the fresco which was inherited from the Roman Empire. It consisted in applying pigments to freshly laid – a fresco – chalk-based plaster; the chemical reactions occurring during the drying process enable the pigments to bind. Painting therefore had to be completed without delay. This technique survived in Italy and Byzantium. However, due to the less favourable climatic conditions, to the north and particularly in France, decorations were more commonly applied to dry coating, covering the work to varying degrees; the pigments were then applied using a binding agent (glue). The end result of this technique, termed distemper painting, proved less resilient.