Professor William Pettit III was asked to participate in a special on the art of fresco and the Sistine Chapel.
According to its website, in every episode of the History Channel’s program “Museum Secrets,” its troupe “travels to one extraordinary museum: the Louvre, the Vatican Museums, London’s Natural History Museum, the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto [and] reveals the stories of one of its irreplaceable treasures: the Mona Lisa, the Sistine Chapel, the golden mask of King Tut, and many more. Museum Secrets probes familiar legends and assumptions, using cutting edge research and technology to investigate the unknown.”
It’s no surprise that Umbra’s dashing and affable fine arts professor would be a candidate for a television special, but it was his expertise in the technique known as buon fresco that got him involved in this particular project. Buon fresco is a process, perfected in the fifteenth century in Italy, of painting on a wet lime-mortar covered wall. Michelangelo, Leonardo, and Raffaelo all used it—and William Pettit teaches it. Pettit was asked to participate in the episode on the Vatican Museums, which discusses Michelangelo’s frescoes in the Sistine Chapel.
The Umbra professor was contacted by the producers because he is one of the few artists and instructors of the fresco painting technique working today. In particular, they were interested in a demonstration of the techniques of cartoon transfer—pouncing and incising—which he also teaches to his students at the Umbra Institute in his ARFP 210: Fresco Painting course. The demonstration involved producing a full sized drawing (cartoon) of Michelangelo’s Adam, and transferring the drawing onto a fresco wall Pettit had prepared. The series was aired on the History Channel on January 6.
The Umbra Institute is now in its third year of offering the class as part of its fine arts program. Want to know more? Click here for a description of Professor Pettit’s class.