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The term "fresco" is taken from the Italian word that means "fresh". In painting, a fresco is a painting done on a wall in a medium such as watercolor put onto plaster. "Fresco secco" is painting done on dry plaster does not have the longevity of "buon fresco", that consists of painting on a wall that has been rough-plastered and then coated and decorated in paint. This was the method used in Italy from about the thirteenth century on. One day's work at a time was prepared.

Fresco of this nature is one of the most permanent types of wall decorations. The colors actually become part of the wall so that scaling, that happens with regular painting processes, does not occur. The working surface on a fresco is always damp, and it is possible to estimate with some precision how long it actually took to complete the whole wall due to the joins in the plaster. In the sixteenth century, the fashion was to do almost all frescoes in the "buon fresco" method. The decorations done by Raphael in the Stanze of the Vatican are excellent examples of buon fresco, as are the panels of the Sistine Chapel that was completed by Michelangelo and has recently been restored, showing much more brilliance of color than was originally thought to have been used.

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