fresco paintings of Kerala is classified as "Fresco-secco"
characterised by its lime medium and technique in which the prepared
walls are painted only when it becomes completely dry.
As per the 'Shilparatna', the principal text on Indian painting
techniques, white, yellow, red, black and terreverte or Syama are
the pure colours that are to be used, either alone or mixed to derive
a different hue. Ochre-red, Ochre-yellow, white, bluish green and
pure green are the predominant colours that are used in Kerala murals,
while limited use of golden yellow, brown, yellowish green, greenish
blue and sky blue is also can be noticed.
Lemon Juice or solution of Thurisu (Copper
Sulphate) was used to apply on the surface to mellow the alkalinity
of lime before painting the surface.
Colour dyes were prepared from vegetable,
mineral pigments and crude chemicals. White is made out of lime,
black from carbon soot of lamps, red and yellow from minerals, blue
from plants like Neela Amari (Indigo Ferra) and green from a local
mineral called Eravikkara. Ancient scriptures also recommend use
of yellow arsenic (Realgar) and Vermilion (red lead) for getting
yellow and red colours. Lac also was used for obtaining deep red.
Mixing of colours were done in wooden utensils and the binding media
used were tender coconut water and exudes from Neem trees.
Painting is followed by an overcoat with
a mixture of pine resin and oil for providing it the lustre and
fastness to it.
three types of Brushes, flat, medium and fine, are used to apply
the paint. Flat brushes are made from the hairs found on the ears
of calves, medium from the bottom of goat's belly and fine brushes
were made by the thin hairs from the tails of muskrats or narrow
grass blades. Shilparatna advocates the use of nine brushes in the
above three types for applying each colour.
Once the theme is selected, the outline
is sketched with dung crayons and then painted with appropriate
Five stances are recommended for depicting
human figures, Frontal, Half-frontal, Askance, One-and-quarter-eyed
Shilparatna recommends three types of colouring
the human characters as per their virtue. The Hindu scriptures classify
human race as Satwa (the noble) Rajas (active after power) and Tamas
( low and mean characters). The Satwik is depicted by shades of
green, Rajasik by red or gold and Tamasik in white and the demons
and demonesses by black.
The art of painting on walls in Kerala dates
back to prehistoric era. Paintings found in the Anjanad Valley of
Idukki District are believed to be the oldest. Archaeologists opine
that these belong to different periods from early Paleolithic era
to recent past that the history can reach. Rock engravings belonging
to Mesolithic era also were unearthed in Edakkal in Wynad and Perumkadavila
in Thiruvananthapuram District.
The source and inspiration of Kerala style
mural painting may be the Dravidian temple devotional art of Kalamezhuthu
elaborated more elsewhere below. Mural tradition of Kerala influenced
by the Pallava art can be traced back to seventh and eighth century
AD. The oldest in them is believed to be in the rock-cut cave temple
of Thirunandikkara that is now in Kanyakumari district of Tamil