Famous murals

The world's most famous murals

Probably no one needs to explain what a fresco is. Every schoolboy will tell you that it is a technique of painting on raw plaster. The art of fresco painting is not one thousand years old. Masters of many countries and eras have chosen this method of implementing their artistic ideas. Thanks to the unique properties of the fresco, today we can contemplate images created several centuries ago. We invite you on a fascinating journey through countries and continents to see the world’s most famous frescoes.

Frescoes of the palace of Knossos. Crete, Greece, late 17th-early 16th century BC.

Knossos Palace is the most prominent and most popular monument of Cretan architecture, referred to as a labyrinth in Greek mythology. The walls of the palace are covered with exquisite frescoes. The predominant colours of the images are red and black. The detail of some of the faces in the frescoes has led scholars to believe that the artists painted them from life. Among the frescoes in the palace of Knossos, as well as in all the art of Crete, a bull is of great importance. The animal probably played an important role in the economic life of the Cretans, in their religious and mythological beliefs. One of the most famous images from Knossos Palace is the fresco with acrobats – boys and girls – jumping over the galloping bull. They are all dressed in the same way – with bandages around their hips and metal belts around their waists. Their movements are free and agile. The width of the chest, the thinness of the waist, the flexibility and muscularity of the arms and legs are emphasised. Apparently, these features were considered signs of beauty. It is possible that such dangerous exercises with an enraged bull had not only a spectacular, but also a sacred meaning.

Frescoes of the Brihadishwara temple. The state of Tamil Nadu, South India, the beginning of II century A.D.

The Brihadishwara Temple, a magnificent architectural ensemble with exquisite carvings, contains some of the most ancient frescoes in Southern India. A few years ago the Archaeological Survey Society of India discovered that the original frescoes, from the Chola dynasty, were inside the temple beneath the sanctuary's wall paintings. Careful restoration has uncovered unique wall paintings depicting Shiva in many of his magnificent poses, with his companions and dancers. One of the murals depicts Shiva on a giant snow-white bull. The bull is a popular personification of the male creative power by which the earth is continually renewed and prolonged.

"The Weeping of Christ" by Giotto, Cappella del Arena, Padua, Italy, 1302-1305.

Giotto di Bondone was one of those talented and daring painters who break established stereotypes and create with a confident hand their own artistic space. Prior to his canvases, Italian artists adhered to medieval canons and Byzantine painting techniques. The flat, stylised figures of such frescoes were seen more as symbols than as real characters capable of feeling.
By painting the Cappella del Arena in Padua, Giotto completely abandoned medieval pictorial principles and created three-dimensional, almost tangible images that transformed a dispassionate beholder into an active participant in biblical events. The artist integrated 38 scenes from the lives of the Virgin Mary and Christ, presenting Gospel subjects as real events and thus creating a majestic epic cycle.
Above the entrance is the fresco The Last Judgment, the focal point of the chapel and one of the master’s most striking works. All the characters in the painting are involved in the action, the location and gestures of each can be understood and logically explained. The characters are drawn with extraordinary precision, and the details of the images create a vivid and coherent picture. The characters’ states of mind – despair, deep sorrow and sadness – are readily apparent in their facial expressions and postures. This fresco brought Giotto the fame he deserved. This work has made his name one of the great masters of painting.