Marmorino is the shortened form of marmorino veneziano, which is Venetian plaster, a special type of wall covering. It differs from other types of plaster in that it consists of powdered marble mixed and a paste of lime. Most other plasters have other ingredients, such as gypsum, sand, silica or cement. Marmorino dates back to ancient Rome, but only became popularly known as marmorino veneziano after it was rediscovered in the 15th century and became popular in and around the city of Venice. Its use spread as it became a mark of wealth, opulence, and fine craftsmanship.
In more modern times, marmorino had fallen out of popularity by the end of the 18th century, although it was still used by some. A revival of sorts was sparked after its use by a prominent architect in the early 1970's, and today it remains a popular, if somewhat expensive, choice for interior and exterior wall coverings. The high cost of marmorino stems from the materials, as it is more expensive than other types of plaster, as well as the skill and time needed for its proper application.
The type and color of marble used to formulate marmorino influences the color of the finished product. Additives can also be used to add a wide variety of pigments. Other additives, such as sand or silica, are not favorably regarded, as they take away from the qualities that make it such an attractive wall coating. In past times, the powdered marble came from tailings and byproducts from quarrying and other stone work. Today, marble scraps are often ground specifically just for marmorino.
The popularity of marmorino stems partly from its versatility as well as its physical properties as a wall covering. It can be finished in a variety of ways. Surfaces can be textured, finshed to resemble raw limestone or even polished marble. Pigments can be added for a number of effects including subtle highlights, solid colors or even designs. Decorative features can be molded into the marmorino as well.
As a wall covering, marmorino is very durable. When dried and cured, it nearly approaches limestone in strength, allowing thin layers to last many centuries. It is water resistant, and so is suitable for exterior walls. It is permeable to both air and moisture, allowing moisture to escape and evaporate quickly, preventing mold growth inside walls, and the chemical make up of the marmorino itself is also a retardant to mold. It is sometimes underlayed with a coating of traditional lime plaster before application.