Pauline Marek: Grand Tour 2022

Rome – Spanish Steps & Trevi Fountain

To kick off the Grand Tour I was assigned to visit and exclusively explore the Spanish Steps & Trevi Fountain Quartieri, to somebody who has never visited Rome prior to this opportunity I questioned my ability to authentically write solely about some of the most well known tourist attractions in Italy. I was faced with the question of whether or not I would be able to write an original piece about two UNESCO Heritage Sites that have been visited time and time again by thousands of people all around the world annually. Deep diving into the internet for solutions my group stumbled upon a truly hidden gem known as “La Città dell’ Acqua”, the direct English translation of the term is “The City of Water”. Rome is often compared to a lasagna, weird segue I know but it couldn’t be any less true. The Rome that many of us know today is only the tip of the iceberg when looking back at the city’s extensive history, our beloved Rome was built on top of the old Rome. Arguably one of the most notable fountains located in Italy known as the Trevi Fountain captivates crowds during all hours of the day, no matter the time of visit I was always greeted by hordes of fellow onlookers. The flocks of tourists and the fountains overall famed status was all the convincing I needed to go off the beaten path and explore the lesser known parts of my neighborhood.

Introducing the less renowned Vicus Caprarius, an archeological site 30 feet below the highly regarded Trevi Fountain. Mic drop. If it wasn’t for my very own visit to “The City of Water” I would never have believed that an entire museum, as small as it may be, exists underneath the famous UNESCO Heritage Site. The archeological site is composed of detritus belonging to aqueducts and a Roman house, it was truly bewildering to see the remaining walls of a home and personal effects of a Roman family that once resided above ground buried away. Entering the museum was an experience in itself as I felt as though I was navigating secret passageways to get to the exhibits. The photos of the site do not do it justice, the domus dating back to the 4th century was eerie to witness yet fascinating as well. Cutlery, statues, and currency were only some of the items on display, the concept that the artifacts being exhibited were at one point belongings was baffling. Even more interesting was the presence of goods originating from Northern Africa, the exhibit had various oil lamps on exposition with depictions of Christian orientated emblems. The information plaques highlighted the importance of the imports brought to Rome as well as the influence they had as they became a blueprint for Romans in regards to regional production. Alongside the remains of a house, aqueducts were also discovered and the water that flows out into the Trevi Fountain passes through the very same pipes located in Vicus Caprarius.

All photographs taken and edited by Pauline Isabelle Marek/CC by 4.0

To top it all of “The City of Water” was discovered only 23 years ago in 1999 during renovations that took place at what once was the Trevi Cinema – National Film Archive. The unearthing of the site halted construction and eventually led to the opening of the Vicus Caprarius in place of the former Trevi Cinema. The realization that discoveries of past Roman life are still being uncovered to this day is hard to grasp but has left a lasting impression on me, I can only describe it as an unforgettable experience that I will cherish for a lifetime.

Florence – Santa Maria Novella

Santa Maria del Fiore is located in the Santa Maria Novella neighborhood, it is by far one of the most architecturally interesting cathedrals that I had seen during my time spent on the Grand Tour. At first I wasn’t really able to pinpoint the exact architectural style of the building as it appeared to lack cohesiveness, I saw inspirations drawn from both the Renaissance and Romanesque styles. The closest comparison I could make with the Cathedral of Florence was to the Duomo di Siena, both structures seem to be created in a disarray. When trying to determine the concrete architectural design of Santa Maria del Fiore I was met with a list of varying styles that were incorporated into the design. The entirety of the cathedral had aspects of Renaissance, Romanesque, and Italian Gothic architecture. I personally found it to be hectic but at the same time so fascinating to look at, the inside of the Duomo was even more impressive. The mural that was painted on the ceiling of the Cathedral of Florence was definitely by far one of my favorites, following shortly behind the one belonging to Saint Peter’s Basilica. The attention to the detail in the mural was profound, the details were intricate and I truly couldn’t help but admire the ethereal scenes depicted in the artwork created by Giorgio Vasari.

All photographs taken and edited by Pauline Isabelle Marek/CC by 4.0

Alongside the captivating architectural design of the cathedral, the story behind the attempted assassination plot of the Medici brothers also captured my attention. The idea of a premeditated assassination taking place on Easter Sunday within a building meant for religious purposes was hard to wrap my mind around. I was completely left speechless when I learned of the priest’s involvement with the Pazzi Conspiracy. Although the original intention was to kill off both Lorenzo and Giuliano Medici, only Giuliano was murdered as a result of a frantic execution of the public assassination. The existing feud between families and the murder of Giuliano Medici caused the Pazzi family more harm than actual good despite their efforts to end the Medici reign. The Pazzi family was eventually exiled from the city of Florence for their involvement and it strengthened the power dynamic of the Medici family in Florence. It was a very surreal experience to have visited such a beautiful cathedral that housed such acts of horror and corruption in the past.

Cinque Terre – Riomaggiore

Arriving to Riomaggiore I expected to be greeted by a village teeming with life, this expectation was established as a result of a few quick google searches. The overall consensus was that Riomaggiore was meant to embody the nightlife scene as well as boast lively streets filled with tourists. Visiting the village with this predetermined perception I found myself completely disagreeing with the majority. I would best describe it as much more of a quaint destination in comparison to Vernazza and Manarola, the village I was assigned to seemed like it was in a state of slumber. Walking through the major tourist attractions that Riomaggiore has to offer, I found tourists clustered in small groups here and there but I wouldn’t consider it to be a busy area. I am uncertain if this misconception may have been due to me spending time in the town during the afternoon but the area overall did not appear to be able to foster a bustling nightlife. Although Riomaggiore is greatly acknowledged for its notable harbor, I decided to go on a hike to one of the higher points of the village.

All photographs taken and edited by Pauline Isabelle Marek/CC by 4.0

Dating back to 1260 construction on Riomaggiore’s very own castle began but was officially completed in the 16th century. Castello di Riomaggiore sits up at a vantage point overlooking the better half of the village, the stone castle was built in an attempt to improve defense efforts. At first glance the castle seems to be out of place amongst the colorful homes and luscious greenery, it simply didn’t fit into Cinque Terre’s predominant aesthetic of small seaside villages. The actual intention behind the building was for it to become a fortress, however, to my surprise it was eventually renovated into a cemetery. I was later informed by a local shop owner that it is currently serving as a cultural center that hosts important conferences. What I cherished most from walking around the castle grounds was the stunning view that the vantage point provided. Even though the main focus of the castle was for military use and currently promotes culture as well as the arts, I couldn’t help but romanticize the landscape and the glistening vibrant turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea. Looking around Castello di Riomaggiore I quickly came to the realization that the castle also had religious connections as it was adorned in varying Catholic symbols. Most noticeable was the crucifix located behind the former fortress, the area in which it was situated overlooked more of Riomaggiore and had benches setup for those who want to stop for the view. My biggest takeaway from Riomaggiore as a whole can best be described by a popular saying, stop and smell the roses especially if you are in Cinque Terre.

Venice – San Marco

During my stay in Venice one of the most captivating stories that I was informed of was the retrieval of Saint Mark’s body from Alexandria, the journey of the two Venetian merchants sparked my interest. I was assigned to the San Marco neighborhood of Venice and I was pleasantly surprised to find a mural of mosaics depicting the whole undertaking at the entrance to St. Mark’s Basilica. The mural portrayed the Venetian merchants carrying in Saint Mark’s body and masses of crowds celebrating his return to Venice. Despite signs of weathering, the mosaic piece does not lackluster and continues to be a brilliant introduction to the Basilica. I feel as though it was an important aspect of the architectural design of the building as it is a symbolical welcome into the most significant religious temple located in Venice. The act of acquiring an established religious figure made Venice appear more noteworthy in regards to maintaining religious relevance among other cities in Italy.

All photographs taken and edited by Pauline Isabelle Marek/CC by 4.0

After taking a closer look at the photos that I personally took of the mosaic mural it dawned on me how truly opulent it’s appearance was, the use of vibrant colored mosaic fragments highlighted the Venetian’s wealth and prosperity. The interior of the religious temple was just as lavish, the Basilica’s ceiling is adorned in warm yellow colors that make you feel as though you are standing under a ceiling made of gold. Coincidentally I later found out that St. Mark’s Basilica was also referred to as “Chiesa d’Oro”, the English translation of this is the “Church of Gold”. The immense success obtained by the Venetians during the time of the temples construction was as a result of Venice being a major key player in the trading scene. One example of their evident wealth that stood out to me was their usage of various colors in their artwork more specifically the color blue. During those times blue pigment was hard to acquire due to its limited supply, the color blue was also acquired from Egypt which made it even more so difficult to get a hold of. Yet the use of the color in Venice could not be described as sparingly, the Basilica was bespeckled in blue textiles as a form of adornment but was also prevalent in the mosaic murals. The same was true for the paintings found inside the Doge’s Palace right next to the religious temple, the commissioned artists used generous amounts of blue in their artistic works. I was awestruck by the use of blues in the murals painted on the palace’s ceilings, the painted skies consisted of the richest blues that I had seen during the entirety of the Grand Tour. Reflecting back on all the places that I had visited previously during the trip made the comparison so much more apparent, it is very evident that Venice was truly a powerhouse for its time.

Piazza San Marco, St. Mark’s Basilica, and the Doge’s Palace are only three examples of how prosperous the city was, their display of wealth withstood the test of time and continues to astonish anyone fortunate enough to get to visit Venice.

Pauline Marek: Italia as Text 2022

Photo Taken by Pauline Isabelle Marek

Pauline Isabelle Marek is a 20 year old Junior attending the Honors College at Florida International University in Miami, Florida. Pauline was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York City where she developed a deep appreciation for her Polish heritage through her constant involvement with the polish-american communities within New York City. After graduating from high school in 2019, Pauline initially majored in Nutrition and Dietetics before officially deciding to change to be a double major in Psychology and Natural and Applied Sciences on a pre-med track. Pauline plans to attend medical school once she graduates in order to fulfill her career goals of becoming a pediatrician.

Roma as Text

“Colosseum: Center Stage”, Pauline Marek of FIU at Roma from May 9-23, 2022

Being one for statistics and numbers I couldn’t help but look up everything and anything I could possibly learn about the Colosseum before my own visit. On my way over to the renowned landmark I found myself impressed by the masses that prioritized their visit to the site, annually over six million tourists flock from all over the world to see the historical wonder. I, one of six million tourists, was now approaching the famous landmark and I couldn’t even begin to imagine how truly momentous the occasion would be. I had previously never ventured into any European country outside of Poland, the Colosseum was a landmark that I had only learned about from textbooks and seen in television series. Yet here I was, my opportunity had finally arisen.

All photographs taken and edited by Pauline Isabelle Marek/CC by 4.0

In person the Colosseum was tremendous and overwhelming in a way, the amphitheater became alive in front of my very own eyes. I could immediately envision tens of thousands of Romans encircling the Flavian Amphitheater awaiting a performance. The grand archways that framed the exterior of the building created an imposing atmosphere feeding into my imagination of what it once was. Walking into the Colosseum and getting the chance to stand almost at its center stage made me feel as though I was stepping into the shoes of a Roman. The saying “to step into someone’s shoes” took on a whole new meaning as I could visualize the mass crowds, thousands of people sitting up in the stands to catch a glimpse of the show. What truly amazed me was the variety of performances that they offered to the public. I was blown away by their ability to switch out among various stagings varying from reenacting sea battles to hosting gladiator fights. The way in which Romans organized their events reminded me of how modern day stadiums such as the Barclays Center in New York City are able to switch out among concerts, hockey games, and basketball games. The Romans were far more advanced than I could have ever imagined. 

The Colosseum was an introduction into the world of classical Rome as the Roman Forum followed shortly after, however, it left the biggest impression on me. The grandiose amphitheater is a perfect example of the timeless and powerful impact that the Romans continue to have on the rest of the world. 

Pompeii as Text

“Unearthing History”, Pauline Marek of FIU at Pompeii on May 16, 2022 

The story of Pompeii and the eruption of Mount Vesuvius has been one of the most intriguing history lessons that I have ever had the pleasure of learning about, the concept of an entire city disappearing for approximately 1,700 years was almost hard to believe. The 85% that had been restored and brought to light for the public to witness was breathtaking to see in person, despite all of the tourists that crammed the grid like streets of Pompeii it did not impose on the atmosphere of the desolate city. Being in the presence of an area filled with such devastating history could not be ignored, the dilapidated buildings and remnants of a past life echoed “ghost town” in my mind. 

All photographs taken and edited by Pauline Isabelle Marek/CC by 4.0

More impactful than the buildings themselves were the molds of those lost in the explosion of Mount Vesuvius. Giuseppe Fiorelli, a well known Italian archeologist, discovered numerous empty spaces under Pompeii which he plastered to produce what are now referred to as “The Casts”.  The plaster casts were those of the lost people of Pompeii, those who decided to remain in the city of Pompeii and risk their lives to protect their own personal belongings. Viewing the exhibits brought about internal turmoil, the shocking expressions and grotesque body positions of the casts obtained by Fiorelli were more powerful than the city itself. The experience left me with many questions and as well as thoughts to reflect on, I often find that visuals have the biggest impact on me. Seeing casts of people covering their mouths to try to prevent suffocation to others containing whole skull fragments prompted a whole new perspective on the meaning of life.  

Pompeii is one of the most interesting cities that I have visited thus far, it is history that has been unearthed after laying dormant under layers of rubble and ash. I feel extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to visit the ancient city. 

Tivoli as Text

“The Fountain at the End of the Maze” by Pauline Marek of FIU at Tivoli from May 13, 2022

During our day trip to Tivoli we were able to explore an officiated UNESCO site known as Villa d’Este, the 16th century villa turned museum that was once owned by Cardinal Ippolito II d’Este sported a breathtaking Renaissance inspired garden. Although the villa’s interior had beautiful displays of artwork and overall ornamentation, the garden with its grandiose displays of flora and fountains was remarkable compared to the rest. 

All photographs taken and edited by Pauline Isabelle Marek/CC by 4.0

Walking past the main fountain and entering the plush well maintained hedge maze I stumbled upon a statue of Artemis. Despite the statue of the Goddess of fertility being located in a quaint setting and appearing more humble than the others it caught my attention, the symbolism behind the statue alone piqued my curiosity. Artemis, also referred to as the “great mother goddess” is depicted with several breasts which are meant to signify fertility and life. The breasts are designed to expel water conveying an implication that Artemis is lactating, lactation is commonly associated with the concept of providing life to another. The plaque correlating with the captivating statue encouraged the public to acknowledge the fountain to symbolize fertility, however, other sources prompt the perception that the breasts are actually eggs or bull testicles tied around her neck. All three are meant to represent fertility, in regards to the dispute existing among the many interpretations of the Artemis fountain the true intention is unknown.

The fountain of the Goddess of fertility left the most lasting impression on me personally, it put me into a position of contemplation and eagerness to further my understanding of the symbolism behind the piece. Entering Villa d’Este I never imagined that I would have been most entranced by a small fountain located in a far corner of the terrace hillside garden, in comparison the remainder of the property appeared extravagant and opulent. It was interesting to focus in on a smaller component of the Renaissance inspired garden as it brought about a deeper appreciation for the less frequented art work. 

Firenze as Text

“The Female Representation” by Pauline Marek of FIU at Firenze from May 23-30, 2022

During my visit in Florence one of the first stops that we took in the city was the Uffizi Gallery, alongside the Uffizi being one of my first impressions of Florence it was by far the most influential component of my stay here. Although I do not consider myself to be extremely influenced or swooned by works of art, I was found speechless and in awe of Sandro Botticelli’s work. In current popular culture I’ve seen references to some of the art pieces belonging to Botticelli’s work in small increments, in retrospect I had seen only small glimpses and parts of larger paintings that I never knew existed. Visiting the Uffizi Gallery I was astounded by The Birth of Venus as well as the Primavera, seeing the artworks up close and personal felt like a privilege. The two pieces despite being painted a long time ago, both created around the 1480s, made me feel a sense of empowerment. Both paintings depicted female divinity, the celebration of the female body as well as the representation of female power in stereotypically feminine characteristics. 

All photographs taken and edited by Pauline Isabelle Marek/CC by 4.0

The artworks Primavera and The Birth of Venus both display feminine attributes of sensuality and grace which are used as a foundation to establish a sense of power rather than shame. Women often face objectification and ignominy for the very beauty that is depicted in both paintings, however, Botticelli does an excellent job in portraying the many women he paints in a celebratory manner without hindering their divine beauty. Seeing female representation in Renaissance artwork has furthered my interest in visual analysis, my trip to the Uffizi Gallery has inspired me to personally look into artists such as Artemisia Gentileschi to grasp a better understanding of feminsit art history. 

Siena as Text

“Re-envisioned” by Pauline Marek of FIU at Siena from May 27, 2022

Being born into a Polish family a predominant aspect of our culture and basic traditional values was founded in the Roman Catholic religion. I grew up going to church weekly on Sundays, celebrating religious holidays, attending religion school, and acquiring my sacraments. For a majority of my upbringing I frequented one church in my neighborhood and it soon became a staple of what I believed a church should look like. 

All photographs taken and edited by Pauline Isabelle Marek/CC by 4.0

Turning the corner and seeing the Duomo di Siena, a Italian gothic style church, for the first time completely reinvented my perspective on church appearances. The Siena Cathedral constructed between 1196 to 1215 boasted a disorganized display with spiral colored columns and romanesque architecture, I had never seen anything like it before. The exterior of the cathedral appeared cluttered in design and the intricate details incorporated seemed as though they had been randomly assigned to their rightful placements. 

Within the walls of the Duomo di Siena the chaotic ambiance was amplified by the uncharacteristic church like interior design, the incohesiveness of the space was made very apparent by the mosaics and statues placed inside. A floor mosaic depicting the Massacre of the Innocents was displayed in the middle of the cathedral with dozens of dead infants portrayed. It was shocking to see something so grotesque and disturbing in a place meant for prayer and spirituality, it felt as though it didn’t match the intention of what a church stood for. The artwork done on the roof of the Duomo looked like a poorly made quilt, in my mind they resembled patchwork that was inexpertly stitched together. The overall design of the Duomo di Siena was shockingly eccentric and strayed away from the basic fundamentals of a church’s appearance, the unconventional church was strange to witness but simultaneously refreshing. 

Cinque Terre as Text

“Hiking the Coasts” by Pauline Marek of FIU at Cinque Terre from May 30 – June 3, 2022

The Cinque Terre hike that passed through all five towns was the first hike that I ever attempted thus far, although I did not finish all five towns due to how rigorous it was I found it very self fulfilling. Climbing up the second mountain I immediately understood why UNESCO had distinguished the Lingurian coast, specifically the one belonging to Cinque Terre as a part of the official World Heritage List. The view that I witnessed during the climb was absolutely breathtaking, I had never seen a composition of colors in the form of buildings sitting so effortlessly in the rocky mountains of the Italian coastline. The vibrantly colorful flowers and rich luscious greenery created a gorgeous contrast to the crystal clear turquoise waters of the Mediterranean Sea. I had truly felt as though I was transported into a scene straight out of a movie. 

All photographs taken and edited by Pauline Isabelle Marek/CC by 4.0

Climbing higher into the mountains I was lulled into momentary feelings of inner peace and tranquility despite the meticulous hike, the calming sounds of trickling water and the natural fauna further carried me into a dreamlike state. The terrace slopes meant for agricultural purposes and erosion prevention made the rocky coasts appear otherworldly, it was very fascinating to see one of Cinque Terres most prized exports being grown on the terrace slopes. Cinque Terre is known for its great tasting wine, more specifically dry white table wine. I was able to see the vineyards upclose and see the production of Bosco and Albarola grapes native to the region. 

Overall, the hike was an amazing experience and it is a memory I will cherish for the rest of my life. Pushing my limits and getting to endure new potential hobbies has truly inspired me to possibly attempt other hikes in the future, I can’t wait to attempt my next hike. 

Venice as Text

“Vogalonga 2022” by Pauline Marek of FIU at Venice from June 3-7, 2022

Walking down the many streets and tight alleyways of Venice, I stumbled upon a chorus of cheering, clapping, and chanting coming from the direction of the nearest canal. Letting my curiosity get the best of me I followed the euphony of encouragement to find myself surrounded in a swarm of fellow onlookers. Climbing to the top of one of Venice’s many bridges and facing out over the canal I witnessed every single small boat imaginable rowing past. Although at first the sight appeared overly chaotic I quickly caught on to the varying flags that kayaks and paddle boats bore, my immediate assumption was that it was a boat race and each boat was representative of an organization, country, or city. Looking past the water I saw crowds sitting at the edges of the canal watching the race, they chanted along to the shouts and instructions of the boat commanders. On balconies and through open windows curious spectators viewed the spectacle. I even managed to see one woman bring out her wooden cooking spoons and pans to drum along to the steady beat of the rowers. The atmosphere of the streets of Venice were alive and upbeat.

All photographs taken and edited by Pauline Isabelle Marek/CC by 4.0

Coming back to my apartment and getting a moment to myself I decided to research a bit into what this event could possibly be. I was able to find out that it was actually a non-competitive race meant to spread awareness about wave damage and its effects on the lagoon, a peaceful protest referred to as Vogalonga. Annually rowers from all around the world are able to come together for a good cause, almost anyone is able to take part in the race and everyone is rewarded for their time spent rowing the 30 km course. 

It was truly heartwarming to fully understand and get to witness thousands of individuals come together to support a wonderful cause. Aside from the main intention behind the rowing event, I was even able to catch crowds supporting rowers racing under many flags including one belonging to Ukraine.​​​ The unity and lack of selectionism felt like a breath of fresh air. Even though I stumbled upon the Vogalonga race out of sheer luck and wasn’t aware of its existence prior, getting to witness it in person has left me with a big smile on my face.    

Pauline Marek: Italia America 2022

Artistic Expression – A Deep Dive into the Fresco Technique

The ability of expression through the use of art is one of the most powerful tools acquired by the humankind, it is a form of storytelling, a means for self-expression, and an expedient way to document the history of entire countries as well as civilizations. 

Forgotten Art Form

The Roman art technique utilized for murals referred to as Fresco was a commonly used method that could be found in various locations throughout Italy’s many timeless wonders, the technique itself permitted for Romans regardless of economical standing or social class to own mural paintings. The Fresco murals can be found throughout rich villas, private houses, as well as public buildings which sheds light on the broad range of prices that stemmed from the use of various pigments. The source of pigments used was the deciding factor in regards to price. It is universally known that ancient Romans used wall paintings as a means of interior design, Fresco was widely used for decoration purposes. The precise definition of Fresco is fresh plaster meaning that the entire technique was focused on applying natural mineral pigments onto freshly wet plaster, in Italian the painting technique is known as “affresco”. When creating wall paintings the artist would dissolve the natural mineral pigments in lime water before applying it to the wet layer, Fresco, and lastly applying the final thin layer, intonaco, on to the pigment. The murals created depicted scenes of fantasy, flora, and fauna, however, Fresco murals were also made with the intention of being prized possessions meant to represent success. 

In reference to the symbolism behind Fresco mural paintings, certain murals were painted with the intention of being triumphal paintings. Triumphal paintings were meant to depict military success with images portraying battle as well as battling campaigns, the imagery used was intended by the owner to impress the public. The Column of Marcus Aurelius is one of the most profound examples of Fresco with the intent of boasting one’s triumphs, the column signifying the celebration of victory located in Rome was a commemoration for the emperor Marcus Aurelius. Prominent Fresco mural paintings can be found throughout parts of Pompeii, the house of Ara Maxima, and the highly regarded Sistine Chapel Ceiling painted by Michelangelo. Despite Fresco murals being relatively affordable other art techniques slowly began to rise to popularity, the antique method came with setbacks as the process was very fast paced due to the surface drying relatively quickly putting a lot of pressure on the artist. By the mid-16th century modern oil paintings took over replacing Fresco. 

Revisiting the Process

Mural paintings that were created using the Fresco technique required the artist to apply mortar directly to the wall being used for the painting, the mortar would have to be applied thickly requiring anywhere up to three layers. The mortar used consisted of various materials but most commonly contained calcium hydroxide also known as slaked lime and volcanic pozzolana would also be mixed in. Volcanic pozzolana could have been interchangeably used with coarse sand, both were effective for the process. Once the mortar was successfully applied onto the wall, a following three coats of slaked lime and crushed marble were used in order to create a smoother surface to work with. During this process crushed marble could also be replaced with fine sand as it was also effective with slaked lime in smoothing down the mortar layer. Regardless, calcium carbonate would form on the surface due to exposing slaked lime to air which in turn would cause it to dry and react. In order for the surface of the wall to be prepared to take on pigment, the surface had to be further polished and made smooth. The surface can be further polished by utilizing either glass, cloth, or even marble to acquire the most desired results. Before the wet layer, also referred to as Fresco, had enough time to fully dry the artist had to outline the overall design and drawings into the wet plaster. Drawing the outlines prior to the wet plaster drying would have produced the best outcome in regards to how well the layer would catch the pigment and look overall. 

Once the mural wall was finally prepped, the artist could then officially start preparing the pigments and applying color to the outlined designs. The Fresco technique requires the artist to utilize primary colors first as they were the most bold and prominent in pigment, soft pastel colors were then added second. Soft pastel pigments were applied using a medium known as secco which is a dry plaster. When both the primary colors and soft pastel colors were fully dried the artist could then start work on detailing the artwork, secco was also used as a means of detail work.

Colorful Ordeal

The natural mineral pigments used for the purpose of bringing color to the Fresco mural paintings determined the final overall price, the individual commissioning the artist would be able to decide the quality of the materials used to create the art. In regards to the color red, a wealthy Roman would be able to afford the more expensive medium and acquire their red pigment from cinnabar which is a form of mercury. Meanwhile a less prosperous Roman would be able to use red ochre or heated white lead for the red pigment used in their Fresco mural painting. Vermillion was another orange-red pigment that was used in antiquity for mural paintings, the expensive mineral made from red mercuric sulfide was just another option to be used. The yellow pigment was obtained from ochre, black pigment could be made from burnt brushwood or pine chips, and a blue pigment referred to as “Egyptian Blue” was acquired by mixing sand and copper together before baking them. Deep purple pigment had two main sources that Romans used, the purple color was made from either sea whelks or heated orange-hued haematite. Green pigment was procured from various minerals, glauconite as well as celadonite were two minerals commonly used for their vibrant green color in Fresco mural paintings. Notable to mention were the Greeks in regards to the medium used, the pigments that were utilized for artistic purposes were unoriginal to the Romans but rather adopted from the Greeks.

The Evolution of Fresco

The Fresco art technique utilized by the ancient Romans underwent numerous periods of evolution in order to continue to fulfill demands as well as trends of evolving antiquus times. Four distinguishable time periods in ancient Rome depicted alterations to mural artwork and the Fresco technique, each period of time introduced a new concept and focal point. 

150-90 BCE

The Fresco mural technique was first introduced to ancient Rome during 150-90 BCE, murals created during this time were heavily influenced by the Greeks and were best characterized as flat projections that were meant to portray basic objects. Marble blocks were often painted onto walls of public buildings and private residences using the Fresco wall painting technique, the paintings were meant to portray simple columns and blocks. However, the pigments used were nevertheless very vivid and were a prominent characteristic of what is referred to as the “First Style” in reference to the Fresco method. 

First Style
90-25 BCE

During 90-25 BCE a massive change in art technique was acknowledged as murals began to portray illusions such as depth, being able to incorporate significant depth in artwork allowed for artists to create a sense of greater space. Ancient Romans began to focus on much more extravagant and elaborate themes for their Fresco murals, many artists were commissioned to create scenes of landscapes and gardens. The artwork became grander over time so much so that entire interior walls within buildings were covered with the intent of creating an illusion where aspects of nature from the outside world took over the inside space. Shading and perspective were also heavily incorporated into murals dating back to what is known as the “Second Style” of the Fresco Technique, this allowed artists to create illustrations that made it appear as though one was overlooking a luscious landscape or garden from within the comfort of their home. 

Second Style
20 BCE- 20 CE

During the time period 20 BCE- 20 CE a noticeable shift was noted as ancient Romans began to focus more on the decorative aspects of the mural created via the Fresco technique. Due to murals being ornamentally focused the concept of space and depth were pushed aside, artwork once again became flat and two dimensional. Artists begin to use less pigments to create their mural art, they heavily focused on colors such as red, white, and black to create monochrome linear drawings for the background. However, landscapes and scenes of nature more specifically rural areas were heavily depicted in the artwork to create a cohesive Fresco mural. The lack of perception and usage of monochromatic flat images characterized what is referred to as the “Third Style” of the Fresco technique. 

Third Style
40 CE

The final alteration that took place in regards to the Fresco mural technique was most profoundly known for the reintroduction of depth into the artwork, this allowed for perspective to be brought back into the mural so that the illusion of space can be created once again. Artists became more heavily focused on detail work as their ornamental work became more intricate, this allowed for various scenes of nature and fantasy to be incorporated into the interior design of a building. Certain Fresco murals were composed of Greek myths, fantasy scenes, still life, and even floral borders to accentuate certain focal points of the art. The increase in mural complexity and incorporation of illusion is what defined the final prominent “Fourth Style” of the Fresco technique.

Fourth Style

Withstanding the Test of Time

Although only a select few specializing artists still prioritize the Fresco art technique, the murals dating back all the way to antiquity have remained intact and are still well preserved due to the technique itself. During the Fresco technique a chemical reaction takes place when slake lime is applied to the surface of the wall, when the slake lime and fine sand are applied to the mortar layer it begins to dry as a result of the reaction taking place. The direct exposure to air will cause calcium carbonate to form as a result of calcium hydroxide and carbon dioxide combining together during the chemical reaction. Calcium carbonate presents itself as a transparent film that forms over the surface of the wall which is where Fresco murals acquire their tarnish resistance. 

The durability of the Fresco technique was ultimately proven with the explosion of Mount Vesuvius, despite the mass destruction caused to the city of Pompeii many mural picture galleries created with the use of Fresco were still found preserved. The recovery of the Fresco murals showed the extent of how significant the calcium carbonate film was in the tarnish resistance, it was also documented that the volcanic ash proved to be another key element in the conservation of the artwork. Murals made with the Fresco method have withstood the test of time, although currently many may not be aware of the technique behind the artwork some of the most renowned sights in Italy are those of Fresco murals. 


Although the Fresco technique is not as prominent as it once was during the Renaissance Era in ancient Rome influences of it can be seen in present day applications. A popular method of protection in regards to maintaining the integrity of the exterior structure of a house is to use stucco. Stucco is a material used to create a layer of durability against various weather conditions. Much like Fresco, the intent of the stucco application is a wet to dry finish which can as a result withstand elements such as fire and any mass impacts. A previous technique used for artwork during the Renaissance Era is now being utilized for construction purposes, the durability which Fresco provided murals is now used for providing secure homes.

On the other hand, certain artists such as Ali Cavanaugh have continued to utilize this technique to create artwork with a modern approach. Fresco painting has made it apparent that the art technique continues to be timeless as it has brought about new purposes for the method as well as continued to inspire new generations of artists. 


Fiore, Julia. “The Frescoes in Pompeii’s Lavish Villas Reveal the Fabulous Lives of Ancient Romans.” Artsy. (August 2018)

Gomez, Nina. “The Four Styles of Roman Wall Paintings.” Honors Program in Rome. University of Washington. (September 2005)

Lepinski, Sarah . “Roman Stuccowork.” In Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (March 2012)

“Roman art – wall painting techniques.” RSC Education. Royal Society of Chemistry 2022., (September 2015)

“Roman art – wall painting techniques.” RSC Education. Royal Society of Chemistry 2022., (September 2015)

The Editors of Encyclopedia Britannica. “Fresco Painting.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., (April 2022)

Pauline Marek: Miami as Text 2022

Photo Taken by Pauline Isabelle Marek

Pauline Isabelle Marek is a 20 year old Junior attending the Honors College at Florida International University in Miami, Florida. Pauline was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York City where she developed a deep appreciation for her Polish heritage through her constant involvement with the polish-american communities within New York City. After graduating from high school in 2019, Pauline initially majored in Nutrition and Dietetics before officially deciding to change to be a double major in Psychology and Natural and Applied Sciences on a pre-med track. Pauline plans to attend medical school once she graduates in order to fulfill her career goals of becoming a pediatrician.

Deering as Text

“A Whole New World” by Pauline Isabelle Marek @pauline_marek of @fiuinstagram at @deeringestate

Growing up in a predominantly urban area of New York City, my perception of nature and wildlife was much different compared to most people. My understanding in the so-called “concrete jungle” was limited to small city parks, nature documentaries, and infrequent road trips to Upstate, New York which featured an occasional deer or two. Visiting Deering Estate and being able to witness all it had to offer through its scenic views and rich history was a very eye opening experience for me personally. All eight beautifully preserved ecosystems provided me a better insight into the real Miami. The eight distinct ecosystems in Deering Estate include Pine Rockland, Salt Marsh, Mangroves, Submerged SeaGrass Beds, the Deering Estate Flow-way, Remnant Slough, Tropical Hardwood Hammock, and Beach Dune Chicken Key, each ecosystem that I was able to visit was a puzzle piece to a bigger picture. 

All photographs taken and edited by Pauline Isabelle Marek/CC by 4.0

Although the Boat Basin was not a massive portion of our entire visit to the Deering Estate, it was by far the most fascinating part of the tour for me and has definitely left me with a memory I will cherish for a lifetime. Getting to see manatees at the Boat Basin that day made me feel slightly better about all of my previous failed attempts at the South Beach Marina. The Boat Basin is a body of freshwater that is surrounded by a  peaceful environment which in turn attracts wildlife such as manatees, birds, sharks, turtles, rays, and on occasion dolphins. I am already planning a following trip to the Deering Estate as I hear the view of the sunrise and sunset from the Boat Basin is absolutely breathtaking, I was absolutely enamored by the beauty of the Deering Estate and it has furthered my appreciation for nature. 

Vizcaya as Text

“Stepping Into a Renaissance Painting” by Pauline Isabelle Marek @pauline_marek of @fiuinstagram at @vizcaya_museum

Over the last two years that I have attended FIU I have never had the pleasure of visiting Vizcaya Museum and Gardens, my knowledge of the estates were limited to pictures online and recounting stories of past visits. On the drive over I couldn’t help but daydream, I began to piece together what I envisioned Vizcaya to look like. As my friend and I pulled into the winding road leading up to the property, Vizcaya immediately exceeded all of my expectations. The road itself leading to the parking lot made me feel as though I was being teleported into a different world far away from the Miami traffic and mass crowds. The serene and isolated estate boasted beautiful statues, arches, and marble designs that were truly breathtaking and unlike anything I have ever seen before, the hints of Italian influence on the architecture, landscaping, and interior design made me ten times more excited for the upcoming Italy study abroad trip. 

All photographs taken and edited by Pauline Isabelle Marek/CC by 4.0

We entered the main house from the back entrance of the property, the moment that we had stepped inside I was blown away by the statues on display, the choice of plants used for decoration, as well as the intricate painstaking details that were put into the overall design of the villa. Although the main house had been updated with window installations, the flora incorporated as a part of the interior design created a perception within the house making it feel as though the native Miami wildlife was spilling in and taking over the space. The display of plants helped blur the line between the inside and outside which was the original intent when it was decided that no windows would be used in the initial design of the house. Some of my favorite art pieces and visuals stem from the Renaissance period as they are heavily focused on aspects of nature and classical antiquity, these elements were prominently evident across the Museum as well as parts of the Garden.

My day spent at Vizcaya was filled with jaw dropping and speechless moments of awe, meeting two polish tourists at the end of the tour and being able to dust off my first learned language had to be the cherry on top for me. I was also surprised to find out that the Polish Pope John Paul II had previously stood with former president Reagan in the same place where I was taking pictures. I eagerly shared this newly amassed knowledge with my family who were immediately excited to visit Vizcaya next time they’re in Miami. I share their excitement as well and can’t wait to come back to see Vizcaya at night as I heard it is even more enchanting. 

Downtown as Text

“The Many Sides of Downtown Miami” by Pauline Isabelle Marek @pauline_marek of @fiuinstagram 

Prior to visiting the Downtown Miami area I had only known it for its federal buildings and public service offices, however, I was very surprised to find out that it was actually a place that could be enjoyed by a very diverse demographic. I found numerous areas in Downtown that catered to different interests meaning that there was a great variety to choose from, the areas were clearly driven by businesses of all sorts as well as entertainment and the arts. As the class progressed throughout the day I was able to witness many different architectural designs which alternated anywhere between modern skyscrapers and Spanish renaissance revival. Notable to mention was the transition of architectural design as the class originally started in an area with older more traditionally built buildings attended to by low to middle class citizens, the class eventually ended up in a gentrified prospering modern city surrounded by socialites. The significant difference of where we originally started in comparison to where we had ended class made it seem like we had visited two completely separate places in one day.

All photographs taken and edited by Pauline Isabelle Marek/CC by 4.0

The most influential stop of the entire walking class in Downtown Miami was at The Tequesta Indians Miami Circle Park, learning about the various burial grounds that have been unearthed in recent years in the Downtown area was both fascinating and appalling to hear about. Although the burial ground at the Tequesta Indians Miami Circle Park was preserved, it was horrifying to learn about the Tequesta cemetery that was considered second priority to the Whole Foods market that was built across the river from the park. It was very disheartening to find out that the city of Miami had permitted Whole Foods to continue building their store on top of an ancient cemetery consisting of 500 graves with only a mural in remembrance to show for it. As some of my family and friends have come down to see me I have made it one of my goals to not only show them the touristy spots that are associated with Miami but to also educate them with the unfiltered history that paved the way.

The class trip to Downtown Miami was filled with a lot of firsts for me which as a result opened up a whole new perspective of the city. Downtown Miami is a conglomerate of the old and new, despite holding a status as a city it is bespeckled in palm trees and luscious greenery that strays from my interpretation of what a city should look like. Taking the metromover after class also disproved my preconceived notion of what public transportations entails, my previous experiences on the subway and MTA buses were completely trumped with how user friendly and well maintained it was. Overall exploring and getting to know all the different sides of Downtown Miami was enlightening and has opened my eyes to the suppressed history of Miami.

SoBe as Text

“Art Deco Drive” by Pauline Isabelle Marek @pauline_marek of @fiuinstagram 

Attending the South Beach walking lecture and getting to witness the “hidden gems” of Ocean Drive have significantly changed my perspective on South Beach. Prior to attending the lecture, previous experiences at South Beach had left me with a longlasting impression of a neverending party scene with overcrowded streets. When taking a step back from the hum of the tourists to take in the colorful scenes all around it dawned on me how easily I had looked past the beautiful Art Deco buildings lining the streets. I was genuinely blown away to hear that the biggest Art Deco city was in fact located in Miami, such a significant feature of South Beach’s charm can be overlooked if someone is unaware of what to look for. The McAplin Ocean Plaza was by far my favorite in the lineup of Art Deco buildings, the overall white building with bright pastel colored detailing stood out among others such as the Colony Hotel.

All photographs taken and edited by Pauline Isabelle Marek/CC by 4.0

The South Pointe Park Pier, an equally as touristy location as Ocean Drive itself, was surrounded by a lot of excitement especially by those who were fulfilling their pier jumps. It was interesting to learn about the infamous pier jumps that supposedly everyone that visits Miami must complete before they leave. Although I was initially not planning on jumping, I have officially added it to my bucket list. Looking past the railings of the pier, the extravagant Fisher Island can be seen. The many times that I have visited South Beach I have never been made aware of the history surrounding Fisher Island, finding out that the island previously belonged to Dana A. Dorsey and was originally named Dorsey Island was perplexing. The absence of a memorial or information plaque referring to the entire situation sheds light on the issue of the city of Miami trying to cover up its history. Dana A. Dorsey was the first African-American millionaire in Florida who possessed what is now known as Fisher Island, informing the public of Miami’s past, especially tourists visiting South Beach would be overall very beneficial. 

My favorite part of the walking lecture was the brief discussion in regards to the Versace mansion on Ocean Drive, the extenuating circumstances around Versace‘s life is something that I have been interested in. The assassination of Gianni Versace was one of the few cases that I was very intrigued by. The Versace mansion itself stands out completely from the other buildings on Ocean Drive, the opulent building is draped in luxuries and boasts a very pompous atmosphere. I was surprised to find out that Gianni Versace was the mastermind behind dressing formally to work and I feel as though this can be seen in the overall architectural design of his home.

%d bloggers like this: