Definition of sgraffito in English:



  • [mass noun] A form of decoration made by scratching through a surface to reveal a lower layer of a contrasting colour, typically done in plaster or stucco on walls, or in slip on ceramics before firing.

    • ‘In tempera painting the most spectacular technique to combine gilding and paint is that of sgraffito, most often used to depict cloth of gold.’
    • ‘Façades were further decorated with virtuoso sgraffiti, the top layer of plaster etched away to reveal a contrasting colour beneath.’
    • ‘Here the last vestiges of the figurative, a few delicately poised hands, flowers and shells, are subsumed into patterned and highly coloured surfaces of glazes, scumbles, impasto, sgraffito, stipples, dots and splodges of paint.’
    • ‘It occupies the entire 6-foot-high composition, with ink spatters, sgraffito and handprints enlivening the surface.’
    • ‘He, too, has worked very large and with heroic, mythic narratives, but once again, seems to take an ironical stance toward monumentality by his use of magnified sgraffito and scrawled imagery.’


Mid 18th century: Italian, literally scratched away, past participle of sgraffiare.