Arayish recipe: the base for fresco paintings

Arayish (or shimla in the Marwari language) is the base for fresco painting. Arayish is covering all the walls of Shekhawati's havelis. Its is smooth, shiny and soft. Arayish is a mixture of marble and shell powders, lime, buttermilk (chhachh), sugar and curd; a delicate, complex and expensive recipe which unfortunately is rarely used today. Only few craftsmen still have the knowledge, transmitted from generation to generation...

Here is one of the recipes, among many others:

1 / The walls are first covered with a centimeter-thick layer of mortar made with fine clay. Once dry, a second layer of clay is applied, then a third layer, to which are added small pieces of jute cloth cut very fine. The wall is then smoothed before complete drying, so that the layer of plaster that will then be applied adheres to the mortar.

2 / Very thin layers of highly liquid plaster are then applied successively.

- A first layer composed of 1/4 lime and 3/4 brick powder;

- a second layer composed of 1/4 lime and 3/4 marble powder;

- the third layer is a mixture of filtered lime with buttermilk and palm sugar (jaggery).

It should be applied to the wall when it is still damp. Between each layer, the surface is polished with agate or white stone.

Before the last layer dries, the pattern is drawn. The colors are mixed with lime water (coated with lime).

3 / The motifs are reproduced in the stencil by the technique of the cliché. This plotting method has been designed to give uniformity to the paint. The contours thus created are then filled with color and then rubbed with agate. A chemical reaction occurs during drying, between plaster and pigments, which seals the paint in the plaster.

4 / Finally, a layer of coconut oil is applied with a soft cloth, acting as protective varnish.

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