Hand-painted canvas ceilings: Volta

The classical art form revived and rejuvenated

Those who think that decorative, hand-painted canvas ceilings are only to be found in magnificent châteaux or grand palazzos might like to think again. This classical art form is now being revived and rejuvenated by Brussels-based specialist Volta, which marries technologies old and new to enliven contemporary interiors and historic buildings with uplifting ceilings.

The tradition of painting on fabric is a long one, dating back to classical Greece and continuing through the Renaissance and into the baroque and rococo periods. One of the most famous examples is the stunning ceiling canvas in London’s Banqueting House, commissioned by Inigo Jones and painted in Rubens’ Antwerp studio in 1635. And perhaps it is no coincidence that the artists behind Volta – Eddy Dankers and Thierry Thenaers – are also Belgian. Dankers, who is a Royal Warrant-holder to the Belgian court, comes from a family whose artistic roots date back to the 17th century, while Thenaers is a master painter, opera set designer and interior designer. And their collaboration is subtly underpinned by a linen-weaving tradition in Belgium that can produce the huge, seamless spans of canvas (up to 12m x 100m) required by some projects.

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Unlike murals painted directly onto a ceiling, a studio-painted canvas allows an artist to create finer, more detailed work, delivered as a single finished piece and then glued in place. Volta’s bespoke designs (from £300 per sq m) can range from classical scenes and copies of historic masterpieces to bold, geometric patterns, art deco motifs and contemporary trompe l’oeil illusions.

“We designed and hand-painted a modern trompe l’oeil aviary design for the ceiling of a luxurious apartment in London’s Kensington,” says Thenaers. “And the living space in a Brussels city-centre apartment really came together when we created a geometric design to echo the homeowner’s art deco furniture.”

Both Dankers and Thenaers have individually worked on historic buildings throughout Europe, including the restoration of Versailles, and owners of important properties continue to seek their skills. “We created traditional trompe l’oeil ceilings for a 13th-century castle in Belgium and an 18th-century château in France,” says Thenaers. “This enabled the owners to stamp their own mark on these incredible historic structures while respecting the buildings’ integrity.”

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With a willingness to work worldwide on projects large and small, Volta is setting the bar for striking ceilings of the highest order.    

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