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linseed oil & a cathedral in malta & wall art in marseille

In the corner behind two public trash bins, the two walls at an angle to each other had been painted with wall art. The colors were vibrant, the figures huge and comic, and no way would one say that this was graffiti in the usual sense. These pieces had been signed as well.

The wall art was in a small street in Le Panier, le plus vieux quartier de Marseille, the oldest district in Marseille.

As I stood there, admiring it, contemplating, I recalled Saint John’s Co-Cathedral in Valletta, Malta. I was thinking about the wall and linseed oil and the cathedral.

Linseed oil, extracted from flax seed, is one of the most useful natural oils. It is used as a preservative for wood, concrete, and an ingredient in paints, varnishes, and stains.”

“Due to its polymer-forming properties, linseed oil can be used on its own or blended with combinations of other oils, resins or solvents as an impregnator, drying oil finish or varnish in wood finishing, as a pigment binder in oil paints, as a plasticizer and hardener in putty, and in the manufacture of linoleum.”

On Monday, September 11 my guide took me to see Saint John’s Co-Cathedral. I had refrained from going during the previous week because of the long lines. She talked our way into the front of the line. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)

The cathedral’s interior is extremely ornate. In 1831, Sir Walter Scott called it a “magnificent church, the most striking interior [he had] ever seen.” Not unlike the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel, which Michelangelo painted between 1508 and 1512, Saint John’s Co-Cathedral’s interior, including the ceiling, was redecorated by Mattia Preti and other artists in the 17th century. It is now considered to be “one of the finest examples of high Baroque architecture in Europe.”

Mattia Preti, and others, applied linseed oil to the limestone, used for construction of the cathedral, before they painted their scenes directly onto the ceiling and the walls. They needed to seal the limestone. My guide told me that. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)

The other day, a month after my sightseeing day with the guide, I stood in Le Panier where two streets met. I was admiring the wall art and wondering whether any thought had been given to sealing the wall before applying the paint. Was the building stone even limestone? (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)

Marseille was once named Massalia: “the remains of the ancient Phocaean fortifications dating to the end of the 7th century BC can be seen in the Jardin des Vestiges and on the butte des Carmes (in Marseille). In the 2nd century BC the entire system of fortifications were rebuilt in pink limestone. Parts of the ramparts can still be seen in the Jardin des Vestiges.” (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)

The islands outside the Vieux Port, for example, Pomègues and Ratonneau, often known as “Frioul,” have limestone. The calanque is comprised in part of limestone cliffs. Those buildings that had wall art, graffiti on them, did someone cut out limestone in order to build them? (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)

I discovered that one artist at least thought about the stone before making the wall art. He or she applied paper-like material to the walls before painting on them. Then, in the course of creating the work, he tore away parts of the material. Sometimes he let the brush strokes overlap onto the wall itself. (Click on any photo to see it larger and in more detail.)

 

 

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