Coriolanus, King of the Volsci

This wonderful tapestry, restored thanks to the generosity of our Canada Chapter, is part of a series illustrating the stories of Coriolanus which is known as the cycle of Coriolanus. This tapestry was completed in Paris in the workshop of Faubourg Saint- Marcel at the beginning of the 17th century. The cycle of Coriolanus was based on drawings dating back to the 16th century, between 1570 and 1590.

The subjects were inspired by the Lives of Plutarch, precisely by the French translation by Amyot in 1559. DSC_3205The Vatican Museums tapestry represents the left hand side of a larger work which originally belonged  to the National Mobilier of Paris and shows Coriolanus asking hospitality from the king of Volscian, Tullius Aufidio.  The original tapestry was a scene divided into two parts by a column and a wall: on one side there was the inside of an elegant room with a large Renaissance fireplace and on the side of this large fireplace is seated Tullius Aufidio receiving Coriolanus. The other side of the tapestry is the portion presented in this Wishbook for restoration: in the foreground there are two soldiers, one of them is Coriolanus, and a group of people is watching the scene.  A Renaissance architectural balcony and a large marble floor is represented in the background.

Before its restoration, the tapestry appeared to be in a good state of preservation, but the entire surface was covered with a significant layer of dust, there were a number of places where texture had been lost, Schermata 2015-10-09 alle 09.35.05particularly in the central part (areas CD3-­‐5), and in the lateral sections. In regards to color, in those colors matching the brown there has been a considerable loss of wool, whereas in the light colors the yarn lost was silk (areas A1-­‐10, E1-­‐10). There were many previous restorations, where many deadlifts were unstitched, some of which were very precarious; in some cases the most visible sagging had already been sewn in previous restorations or preservation. The article along the selvedge parts bended in result, and in fact this was partially visible. Along the perimeter of the frame restorations performed by brush with varnish colors were visible. In the area E1, a total lack of blue selvedge was observed. At present, there was also some coarse mending (areas A1 to E1; from A10 to E10; A11-­‐E11). There has been very obvious desaturation of the color in the areas B3, B4, C2, D2, and in the vicinity of Coriolanus’s arm there is a noticeable crease. On the corners of the selvedge there were holes that were obviously caused by the use of nails. The tapestry has a linen lining that covered only the perimeter portion of the work leaving the central one uncovered. Thias has caused numerous tensions over the entire surface. At the corners of the lining five stamps were found with the initials SDF.

The central scene: The tapestry in question was positioned for the restoration of a new frame, which allows a homogeneous tension over the entire surface. The carried out restoration is the placement, where there are shortcomings of the plot, a support in linen color of the area to be restored, on which the warps were stopped by apoint type, sewn alternately. This tie-­‐off was carried out with yarn of wool or silk, depending on the lack of texture present in the area. So, in the area E1 there is a total lack of the blue selvedge. Action was taken using a connective cloth support, which was specially dyed.
The selvedges: they have been carefully restored by applying a connective support and linen.
The lining: the tapestry is lined with cotton fabric, previously prepared with a diamond pattern regular grid, which allows for a uniform distribution of weight. At the end of the lining, on the high side, a velcro strip has been placed, over which the tapestry will be hung. The five stamps found on the original liner were sewn for support and applied on the left side of the bottom of the tapestry after the completion of the restoration. To make them visible to scholars, the left corner of the cover was left with velcro sewn on the perimeter.

Unveiling of the Room of the Addresses

The Room of Addresses is so named because, in the 19th century, it had been the place of receiving addresses to the Holy See from all over the world (it’s not the place the Pope keeps his rolodex). Then, from the pontificate of Pope Pius XI (1922-1939) onward, the hall became a place of glorious display for a valuable collection of ivories, enamels, metal works and other artistic pieces from the same countries from which so many appeals of peace and joy had been received.

It was clear that the cabinets used to showcase these works, originally acquired over 200 years ago and meant for the library of Cardinal Zelada, were woefully inadequate for the needs of this collection. They were not designed for this purpose and therefore did not have the climate control or ease of viewership that is generally required for modern museum exhibition.

Over the past two years an extensive restoration project of these displays has been underway thanks to the generous donations of patron Joseph Incaudo, in loving memory of his wife Beatrice Maddalena (1946-2009). Thanks to his support, the treasures housed in this hall now have a more modern home, befitting their beauty and importance.

Room of the Addresses, California Chapter from Vatican Patrons of the Arts on Vimeo.

The restoration of the Room of Addresses demonstrates the ways in which patrons who devote their support to structural elements of the Vatican Museums can make a significant contribution to the overall experience of millions of visitors over the years to come. For our 2016 Wishbook, many of our donation opportunities represent these kind of large-scale improvements to the museums that assist in access or education. Keep an eye out for projects such as these in the coming months, they will maintain an important legacy for those who have the chance to patronize them.

On June 25, these crucial restorations were ready to be unveiled. His Eminence Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello (President of the Governorate of City Vatican), Antonio Paolucci (Director of the Vatican Museums), Benedetta Montevecchi (Historian) and Guido Cornini (Curator of the Department of Decorative Arts of the Vatican Museums), and our own Sara Savoldello, Romina Cometti and Camille Reyes were on hand to officially inaugurate the new displays.

The cases also facilitate a restructuring of the collection into an improved experience for viewers which allows for focused curation and a more intuitive organizational pattern for the pieces following chronological and geographical nodes.  As part of the event on the 25th, organizers also showcased restorations on the Barocchi Crucifixes, thanks to the Reas of our Michigan Patrons, as well as upcoming restoration on St. Pantaleo sponsored by the Perry Family of Ohio.


At the Conference discussing thie new display. From left to right: Benedetta Montevecchi, Antonio Paolucci, HE Card. Bertello and Guido Cornini.

At the Conference discussing thie new display. From left to right: Benedetta Montevecchi, Antonio Paolucci, HE Card. Bertello and Guido Cornini.

Curator Guido Cornini being interviewed by Televisa on the unveiling.

Curator Guido Cornini being interviewed by Televisa on the unveiling.

Viewers admiring the new display cases.

St. Pantaleo displayed in the top middle.

Viewers admiring the new display cases.

Viewers admiring the new display cases.

Chapel of San Lorenzo in the Holy Stairs Opens with Special Presentation on June 11, 2015

As our Patrons know, the restoration of the Sanctuary of the Holy Stairs is one of our major projects. After a major preliminary study and completion of the first phase (The Chapel of San Silvestro) supported by the Getty Foundation 2000-2006, work has continued thanks to the Patrons of the Arts Office and the Vatican Museums Department of Paintings Conservation. Maestro Paolo Violini is supervising 9 young restorers who have completed the second phase of the project: The Chapel of San Lorenzo, the area of the Sanctuary in which Holy Mass is celebrated. The results are extraordinary and we will be celebrating all this in a special inaugural presentation on June 11, 2015. Prof. Arnold Nesselrath will outline the year’s work in an illustrated power point presentation not to be missed. Our own Father Mark will also be speaking about the contribution of the various Patrons involved. Additional remarks will be from Father Ottaviano D’Egidio and Father Francesco Guerra of the Passionist Congregation at the Holy Stairs, who are responsible for this important Pontifical Sanctuary.

For those who won’t be able to come to Rome for the opening, here is a link to a short film by Catholic News Service produced for Easter 2015, which gives a good sense of what is being undertaken.

Mary Angela Schroth

Paul Brill, Paesaggio con artisti (part.),Roma. Scala Santa, cappella di San Lorenzo, 1588-1590.jpg

The photo here is part of a fresco by the Flemish landscape artist Paul Bril, whose possible self-portrait is portrayed in the lunette above the entrance to the Sancta Sanctorum (Holiest of Holies) at the Holy Stairs.

A Glimpse into the Museums’ Past Made Beautiful Once More

The generosity of the International Chapter has made possible the restoration of four magnificent plaster casts by the multitalented artist Pietro Melandri. Most famous for his work with ceramics, Melandri was tapped by Pope Pius XI in the early 1930s to aid architects Giuseppe Momo and Gio Ponti in the design of a new entrance to the Vatican Museums. The creation of the independent Vatican State on the 11th of February, 1929 necessitated a new entrance to the museum that would provide access to the space, while separating it physically from Italian territory. Essential to the planning stages of this grand entrance, these four plaster casts document the progression in architectural style from a simple, rusticated portal to a grander and more elaborate architectural statement.

The restoration of these historically significant plaster models carried out by Restorer Marta Giommi was quite complex. Due to poor storage conditions, the casts showed significant structural and cosmetic damage. They had sustained deep scratches and their surfaces were stained by rust, water, and dirt. Plaster is an incredibly porous material that readily absorbs dust and dirt particles. After a careful cleaning with a microfiber brush, the surfaces of the casts remained greyish. In order to preserve the water-soluble material from which the cast is constructed, the restoration team applied warm agar in order to carefully extract particles trapped within the pores of the material. This carefully constructed material removed the dirt from the pieces just as a facemask removes dirt from a human face, leaving these plaster designs white once more. After significant structural reparations, these magnificent glimpses into the design of an important feature of the Vatican Museums are once more ready for view. We are grateful to the International Patrons for their generous contribution that made this restoration possible! We look forward to seeing all of you at the International Patrons event on July 13.



A 4th Century Sarcophagus Commemorating Lost Loved One and Love of God

Love can mean many things, but the Greek term “agape” is meant to convey love that is total and self giving. It is more than simple physical passion or “eros,” or “filia” friendship. Discovered in the Vatican near St. Peter’s and dating to the the Constantine era (mid 300’s A.D.), this sarcophagus, which has been called “Agape” stands a lasting testament of love both for a lost spouse and for God who watches over her in eternity.

Though inscriptions on pieces like these are rare, etched on the surface here are the words, “To my dear wife, Agape” – as well as a note commemorating the span of their relationship down to the day – “55 years, 1 month, and 5 days.” Surrounding this touching memorial are numerous architectural aspects as well as biblical scenes from the new and old testaments. These include the sacrifice of Isaac, Jonah and the whale, and many miracles of Christ.

[VIDEO} for more on this amazing piece of history watch this brief video with Christian Antiquities Curator Umberto Utro and Valentina Lini.

Sarcophagus of Agape and Crescentianus, California Chapter from Vatican Patrons of the Arts on Vimeo.

Curator of the Christian Antiquities Department, Dr. Umberto Utro, and Valentina Lini explain the project. Careful cleaning and meticulous work were able to return the piece to its original luster and will allow it to stand for all time as a beautiful monument to a loving husband who was committed to “agape” for his wife and for God. Thanks to generous donations from the California Chapter – particularly the efforts of Roberta and Howard Ahmanson for their help in restoring this treasured memorial of love and faith.

It’s easy to become a Patron! To participate in meaningful projects like this one please contact our Office and find out how to glean the benefits of membership which include special programs, private tours, and behind-the-scenes glimpses into the Vatican Museums.

Junior membership is designed for those under 35 years old and provides all the advantages of membership at a reduced rate – to learn more click here.

Three Crosses Restored Thanks to Our Michigan Chapter

Restorations are complete on three beautiful crucifixes!In 2007, Carlo and Lucia Barocchi donated three exquisite crosses to Pope Benedict XVI. One was a 14th century copper crucifix of the “archaic” style, a second in gilded silver was from the 17th century and a third (the oldest) dates back to the late middle ages. After being put in our Wishbook a restoration of these pieces was supported by Tony and Suzanne Rea of the Michigan Chapter. The spectacular final results are due to their patronage and the efforts of our wonderful restorers of the Decorative Arts Department.

Barocchi Crucifixes Collection, Michigan Chapter from Vatican Patrons of the Arts on Vimeo.

This Dashing Dacian Prince has Been Fully Restored!

With work beginning in 2012, we are happy to say that this colossal statue of a defeated prince has been fully restored and is ready for display. The statue was part of a decorative scheme used to adorn the great Trajan Forum inaugurated by the Emperor in 113 AD. The impressive piece depicts a Dace prince dressed in a long tunic – arms crossed in front of his body in a attitude associated with prisoners. The sculpture is made of pavonazzetto – a white marble extracted from purple veins in the quarries of ancient Phrygia, in the heart of Turkey.  These pavonazzetto sculptures were larger than those in white marble, thus they were possibly placed on the top of the decorated arcade.

How do you restore a prince?

A Deep Wash:

The process of restoration was extensive and took meticulous effort. Primarily, cleaning of surface deposits were accomplished using  compresses of deionized water. This brought out the real sheen of the purple veined marble.

Keeping his integrity – with lasers!:

During the restoration, a light coating applied in ancient times was discovered that probably balanced the stone material’s integration. Restorers Dr. Giandomenico Spinola and Dr. Claudia Valeri decided to respect this and with laser cleaning were able to approximate the original look of the statue.

No such thing as a small surgery:

Parts of the piece had to be dismantled in order to finish the job. A steel pin from the 1800s that held part of the cloak in place was replaced and his nose had to be removed to care for the wax-resin that had anchored it in ancient times.

Finally the fingers:

In the end, the original parts of the fingers were repositioned and adhered with plaster colored to match the statue using watercolors.

Though not yet on display because of finishing touches on the pedestal – prepare to see the Dacian Prince in all his glorious defeat very soon in the halls of the museum.

Before Restoration

Before Restoration


During Restoration

After Restoration

After Restoration







Wrapping Up Another Restoration: Vatican Mummy Project

Thanks to the generosity of Cecil and Susan Hawkins of the Canadian Chapter, the Vatican Museums is proud to announce that the conservation of the Mummy of an Unknown Man has been completed. The mummy was in dire need of preservation due to degraded bandages and evidence of infestation. However, due to the hard work of Dr. Alessia Amenta and her team, the mummy has now been preserved for future generations.

Before the work began on the project, the Egyptian department knew that the mummy was a male likely between the ages of 35 and 50. The corpse was completely wrapped in bandages except for his face and two toes. This uncovering was likely due to inappropriate handling during the original excavation in the late 19th century.  This mishandling was perhaps due to thieves trying to steal amulets that the Egyptians would place between the bandages for protection.

This mummy was the second in a series of seven that are yet to be preserved. This ‘Vatican Mummy Project’ will not only ensure the conservation of these artifacts, but it is also leading to new discoveries! During the work on this mummy the team found two platforms located directly between the should blades. These beams, of unknown substance, would have supported the corpse while the doctors performed the embalming process, which is something Egyptians felt was necessary to ensure a safe travel to the afterlife. The restorers were also able to identify twelve bandages, four shrouds, and three different textile types. These discoveries are not only helping to better inform the Vatican Museums, but are enabling a better understanding of these people and their burial rituals throughout the scholarly community.

Next time you visit the Vatican Museums, make sure to stop through the Egyptian Galleries and say hello to one of the mummies on display. Whether you see them before or after they go to the labs for preservation, they are truly one of the most unforgettable parts of the Vatican Museums!



The Mummy before his restoration


The skull uncovered during the restoration process


The bandages after their cleaning


The Restoration of ‘Jesus in Front of Pontius Pilate’

The Passion of Christ is one of the most depicted narratives in the history of art. It was, and is, such an important part of the Catholic faith, it is no wonder that artists painted it repeatedly. One such painting, Jesus in Front of Pontius Pilate, has recently been restored in the painting labs of the Vatican Museums thanks to Gary Tigges of the Texas Chapter!

In this particular painting, Jesus is portrayed standing before Pilate, awaiting to be sentenced to death due to accusations of blasphemy. While Jesus is recognizable by his halo, Pilate can be seen in the shadows on the left. His uncomfortable position was likely intentional as according to scriptures he did not want to be part of Jesus’s wrongful death. Pilate sits in anxiety, but Jesus stands tall and calm, accepting the fate that his Father had bestowed upon him. The unknown Nordic Master who completed this work in the mid-16th century, took both inspiration from his homeland, as well as from the Italian Renaissance.

This painting had been restored multiple times in the past, dating as far back as 1923. These former restorations had layered varnish and glues on the painting thereby diminishing some details. The highest priority for the restorers in this instance was to lighten the paint back to its original color after decades of buildup had darkened the palate. After the restoration of the varnish, the restorers strengthened the canvas and filled the lacunae in the framing. These precautions will make it so the restoration will last longer and remain stable for many years to come!

Jesus in Front of Pontius Pilate before the restoration.

Jesus in Front of Pontius Pilate after the restoration.


California Patrons Fund the Mass Spectrometer

When works of art are brought to the labs, there is not only the opportunity to restore them, but it is also possible to discover more about their history and construction. One piece of equipment that is especially helpful in this regard is the Mass Spectrometer. This technology allows for researchers to discover the origins of the art, including where the marble was quarried for statues and if multiple paintings were completed by the same workshop. As of this past week, the Vatican Museums is now in possession of their own Mass Spectrometer, thanks to the generosity of the California Chapter.

The Scientific Research Laboratory is already using the instrument, so that they can answer questions about some of the most important works in the Vatican’s collection. The Mass Spectrometer is so precise, it can actually identify all the elements of the periodic table! How this works is that each chemical element has a trace on it that the machine can identify, similar to the way we use fingerprints. This technology will not only help with quarried marble, as mentioned above, but also elements such as gold and iron, making it very beneficial to the Metal and Ceramics Lab. Even more importantly, the restorers will now have a better idea of the time period in which objects were created. This will help when assessing whether or not a fragment is authentic, or something was an addition in a later period.

Here in the Museums and in the Labs we are grateful to the California Chapter for their generous sponsorship of the Mass Spectrometer. This scientific machine will only help the restoration teams with their work, but it will also be beneficial in the discovery of historical details. We hope you are all as excited as we are about the work this machine can enable!

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