Standing Tall – The Intricately Inscribed Marble Base

A few weeks ago we mentioned the completion of restorations on a Statue of the Dacian Prince from the Trajan Forum in 113 A.D.  While restorations on the prince are completed, restorers now begin work on the marvelous base with which that sculpture has been associated. Though the prince is spectacular, the base is also stunning and historically intriguing, with an intricate inscription that requires careful cleaning and attention from our restorers. Now, thanks to the support of the Junior Illinois Patrons, this integral project has begun.

On March 18, the Junior Patrons (made up of members under 35 years old) hosted their second annual “Illinois Associates Night Out” which included an unveiling, and engaging discussion about their excitement for the good works ahead involving the marble base.  The base was actually not originally created for the Dacian Prince – it was made in the 5th century and the inscription reads that it once supported a statue of Acilius Glabrio Sibidius who had important government roles in Greece, Campania and west Gallia. However, this base and the Dacian prince have been connected for centuries. 

The pieces are usually housed in the Chiaramonti gallery, however it is important for us to maintain the vision and verisimilitude of this space, crafted by famed Antonio Canova who constructed it in the 19th century. Therefore, prince and base will only come on display when restorations are fully complete on corresponding pieces of similar construction so that the full experience is recreated.

Are you under 35 and want to get involved? Junior membership is designed especially for you and includes the same rewards as full members at a reduced rate. It’s easy to become a patron (particularly a Junior Patron) and the perks are amazing! Click here for more information.

Don’t miss your chance to win with the Patron’s Junior Membership GIVEAWAY – More details here.

{See this striking video for more information on the base and the history of the Chiaramonti on Vimeo}

5th Century Marble Base, Illinois Junior Patrons from Vatican Patrons of the Arts on Vimeo.

If you would like to know more about this project and the others associated with the Chiaramonti go to our Wishbook.

Canadian Patrons Help Restore Pinturicchio’s “Secret” Borgia Apartments

The Borgia Apartments were sealed off by Pope Pius III after the death of Pope Alexander VI, Rodrigo Borgia, (1431-1503) (due to their association with the scandalous Borgia family). For nearly 400 years the sumptuous art within sat in wait.

Then, in 1889, Pope Leo XII reopened the rooms for restoration revealing an overwhelming trove of artistic riches. The apartments were discovered to be filled to the brim with astonishing frescos by the Italian painter Bernardino di Betto, also known as Pinturicchio – who worked on them with a team of apprentices between 1492-1494. Intricate stucco work adorns the walls and vaults while accentuating the paintings, saturated with vivid reds and blues.  The halls are considered a masterpiece in design. Themes of the works adorning the walls are from medieval encyclopedia and celebrate the supposed divinity of the Borgias.

In this short and telling video, Romina Cometti and Marco Pratelli guide us through current restorations and expand on the importance of the particularly impressive pieces in “The Hall of the Liberal Arts”. The frescos in here are mainly allegorical with scenes of anthropomorphized “lunettes” including the idealized embodiments of rhetoric, music, astrology and so on. These important restorations are made possible because of a generous donation by the Canadian Chapter of Patrons.

Because of the distinction of the color palette of these frescos, the stark contrast between those portions that have undergone the careful cleaning process and those that await restoration is striking. Much of the damage came from soot and candle smoke from the time when the apartments were under use, but with careful attention to detail, restorers can return the frescos to their original and glorious  luster. One can almost imagine the gatherings of wealthy patrons mingling in candlelight while the frescos looked on.

An interesting development involves recent restorations of another room in the apartments (The Hall of Mysteries of the Faith) which revealed – under a layer of dirt – what is believed to be the very first European depiction of Native Americans! Painted in 1494, only two years after the voyage of Columbus. The figures appear in the background of Pinturicchio’s spectacular “Resurrection.”

For more on these fascinating artistic treasures and the secrets of the Borgia apartments don’t miss these videos:

Borgia Apartments “Room of the Liberal Arts” Part 1, Canada Chapter from Vatican Patrons of the Arts on Vimeo.

Borgia Apartment Part 2, Canada Chapter from Vatican Patrons of the Arts on Vimeo.

The duty of the Patrons is a sacred one in preserving our artistic history. If you’d like to participate in the restoration of these or similar pieces at the Vatican Museums contact your local chapter of the Patrons Office.

Bernini Angel Update

Bernini Angels UPDATE! Restorations continue on one of the Vatican’s prized possessions. Find out why these beautiful Bernini Angels were scheduled to be burned by clicking here!

Bernini Angel, New York Chapter from Vatican Patrons of the Arts on Vimeo.

For more restoration updates check out our behind-the-scenes videos here. 

Series of 48 Bookcases Under Restoration

Our Art Historian, Romina, illuminates the restorations on 48 amazing bookcases completed by Mario Cretoni in the mid 19th century. These currently live in the Gallery of Urban VIII.  The delicately ornate bookcases feature scenes of Rome and the Vatican from the 1800s. Thank you to our Florida Chapter for helping us restore these Vatican treasures.

See the video here!

Cretoni’s Bookcases, FL Chapter from Vatican Patrons of the Arts on Vimeo.

Restoration of Etruscan Treasures – Thanks to Our Florida Patrons

One of the most fruitful bronze age sites has been the Tomb of Regolini Galassi. Discovered in 1836 in Cerveteri this tomb can still be visited today. Etruscan tombs of this kind often held ceremonial artifacts in gold, bronze, and silver and excavation here unearthed a chariot, silverware, gilded and bronze ware and precious jewels assumed to be the property of the deceased.etruscan treasures 2

Today, several artifacts from this excavation grace the Vatican Museum and thanks to the support of our Florida Patrons (particularly Mr. and Mrs. John Koch) they are being properly cared for and restored. In particular, eleven bronze ribbed paterae (plates), originally placed along the cell walls of the tomb as well as ceremonial vases of oriental origin that were used in entombment rituals of Etruscan royal classes are being cleaned and refurbished for display. In addition, four ceremonial shields have been restored and their parts reconnected/strengthened using “resina epossidica” – a special artificial acrylic resin that allows the reintegration of missing areas without negative reaction to the bronze surface.

This important project restoring some of the most representative Etruscan artifacts extant, shows a true glimpse into history and the lives (and deaths) of people from over 2500 years ago.

Watch this video of Restorer Chiara Omodei Zorin from the Metal and Ceramics Restoration Lab for more information and a behind-the-scenes look!


If this project interests you – consider becoming a Patron 

Check out more restoration videos on our site by clicking here.

Beyond the Candelabras

The Gallery of the Candelabras takes its names from a pair of massive marble candelabra that help divide the hall, which was arranged by Pope Pius VI in the 18th century. It is within this gallery some of the most important decoration in the Museums can be found. The paintings on the wall were completed by Domenico Torti and Ludwig Seitz. This highly trafficked hall of the Museum is currently undergoing a very important restoration that will highlight these paintings and return them to their original splendor.

20150107_093057Through speaking with head restorer, Francesca Persegati, we learned that the restorers are very interested in this project because it’s a chance to study and work on 20th century mural painting. The other fact that makes this project unique, is that the paintings aren’t frescoes, but instead Torti and Seitz used tempera colors. In addition, the restoration team has not only cleaned the walls, but they also had to evaluate the damage of the roof and the work that must be done to fix it and prevent future damage.

The restoration of the Gallery of the Candelabras is not only a grand project, but it marks an occasion for scholars and restorers to study different techniques of modern art. Our thanks go to not only to Persegati and her restoration team, but also to Connie Frankino of the Ohio Chapter for making this restoration possible!

Gallery of the Candelabras Presentation from Vatican Patrons of the Arts on Vimeo.



Texas Chapter Visits Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Vatican Gardens

On the Northwest border of Vatican City lies a proposed section for the Gardens restoration project. Like the the Grotto of Lourdes section, this area is located atop Vatican Hill and is a spectacular vantage point for catching a panoramic view of Rome. It is for this lovely place  that the Texas chapter of Patrons has generously donated so that the section of Gardens can be well preserved.  This past week, when they were in town, members of the Texas Chapter visited the site to see first-hand the impact that their contributions are having on the serene and spiritual place.

One of the most special pieces in this section is a statue that gives the area its  namesake – donated by Mexico to Pope Pius XII in 1939,  depicting moment that the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe was miraculously revealed in Mexico City in the year 1531. In the statue, native Juan Diego stands in surprise as he gazes upon his Tilma (or peasant cloak) upon which the sacred image of the Virgin appeared.  The Franciscan Bishop, Juan de Zumaraga also kneels in surprise before her,  a witness to the miracle of the beautiful, sacred image.

The Vatican grounds represent one of the finest gardens in the world.  Formed on hallowed ground and cultivated with faith and hope, the growth here is sacred and symbolic of greater spiritual meaning. Many popes have prayed surrounded by this shrine of greenery. Pope John XXIII often reflected in the gardens as he prepared to lead the church through the Second Vatican Council. John Paul II often invited young people to pray the rosary with him at the Lourdes shrine atop the Vatican Gardens. Pope Benedict XVI was also known to pray his rosary here.


Although many of the degradation problems of the works were similar, there were different levels of deterioration due to specific factors of corrosion relating to placement (major or minor exposure to sunlight and rainfall), constituent materials, and the presence of previous restorations and/or the reassembly of fragments or parts of the works. Today, thanks to the Texas Chapter these problems are being overcome by restorers. As they were able to witness on their visit – we’ve been able to preserve and restore this majestic statue and the glorious landscape that surrounds it.

The Texas Chapter was able to contribute so much to this effort, but there is still a great need when it comes to our gardens. It’s so important to maintain this holy place and meditative space so that it continues to inspire visitors and holy contemplation. If you are considering donating to one of our projects please think about adopting part of the garden. It is a truly worthy project.

See this link for more information on how to be a part of this effort:



Our Texas Chapter VIisiting the Gardens

Our Texas Chapter VIisiting the Gardens


guadalupe statue

Gardens Entrance


The Vatican Gardens: Restoring the Apollo

You never know where helpful hints will come from in the world of restoration.  When Mr. and Mrs. Hazelwood of Tennessee dropped by to check out the work that’s being performed on the Apollo section of the Vatican Gardens they’ve adopted in honor the memory of their daughter and niece, they were able to talk to the restorers about the new techniques they are using to keep the statuary clear of moss and other biological material that affects the stone masterpieces. The restoration of this section is part of a pilot project that will flower into a strategy of conservation for all the statuary in the gardens.

As one aspect of this, restorers just began testing a new restoration technique adopted from the invention of a farmer in Iowa. And it was a Patron that suggested it! The homeopathic agent, an American product known as “Moss Buster”, is cleaner and less abrasive than the biocides that restorers used in the past to clean the outdoor statues.  Also it is more effective – with the cleaning lasting much longer than ever before. Previously, even with modern chemicals, staining moss would return in just a couple months. The Moss Buster kills what is on the surface and restorers then perform a further removal with a gel product that is spread over the surface. When the gel hardens, they peel it off leaving a clean statuary underneath.   Director of the Vatican Museums Restoration Laboratory for Stone, Guy Devreux, calls Moss Buster  “a huge help in the atmosphere in the gardens.” After the peel, restorers have begun applying essential oil of oregano, a final protective measure that keeps the statue clean and prevents it from yellowing. A chemical peel and essential oil rub-down? Sounds like a nice day at the spa.

Thanks to our patrons, an Iowa farmer, and Moss Buster, our statues are restored to their natural beauty and can be more easily maintained. The Hazelwoods were so glad to hear that their patronage went toward this important innovation in outdoor restoration and so are we! It means that supporting the gardens is even easier and donations go further. Adopting a section of the gardens is a particularly rewarding experience as it connects the natural and man made worlds with the history and spirituality of the Vatican.  It is rewarding to see the continual growth and beauty in that counterbalance. Something truly delightful to share with all our visitors.

This Wednesday, Director of the Vatican Museums, Antonio Paolucci visited the gardens to oversee the progress and talk to restorers and curators.  He was amazed at the results of the restoration and was happily surprised to hear that the Patrons were critical in revealing a new technique. The collaboration of the Patrons in restoration always uncovers surprises!

If you would like to adopt part of the Vatican Gardens see our WISHBOOK 2015 Projects online, here:

Our Patrons from Tennessee, the Hazelwoods, with restorers in front of their adopted "Apollo" Section.

Our Patrons from Tennessee, the Hazelwoods, with restorers in front of their adopted “Apollo” Section.

Detail of Restoration Work

Detail of Restoration Work


Guy Devreaux the Director of the Vatican Museums Restoration Lab for Stone Artifacts and Father Mark Haydu with our IL Patrons during their Chapter Visit

Guy Devreaux the Director of the Vatican Museums Restoration Lab for Stone Artifacts and Father Mark Haydu with our IL Patrons during their Chapter Visit

Restorer with the Apollo Statue

Restorer with the Apollo Statue

Director of the Vatican Museums, Antonio Paolucci, Visiting the Project

Director of the Vatican Museums, Antonio Paolucci, Visiting the Project


Restoration Updates: The Lebete

lebeteThis morning, our office met with Museum Director Antonio Paolucci, Professor Nasselrath, Curator Dr. Maurizio Saniballe, and Head Restorer Flavia Callori di Vignale in the Metal and Ceramics Restoration Lab.  After catching up on usual business matters, the meeting turned its focus towards the Lab’s recent completion of the restoration of the Lebete with Tripod.  The stellar success of the project, particularly its cleaning, is extremely apparent: its surface, which appeared dark brown and grimy, has recovered the rich tonalities of its green patina.  This dramatic transformation is due to the restorers’ careful removal of the various organic residues that were encrusting its surface.  This rare Etruscan bronze, one of the many items of the Museum’s collection of works from the Regolini Galassi Tomb, was restored thanks to the generosity of Anne Marie and Chris Scibelli of the California Chapter.


The Gallery of Maps in Cortile Della Pinacoteca

The Gallery of Maps takes its name from the forty topographic maps made up of 40 frescoes along its walls, which depicts the Italian regions and its possessions of the Church that Pope Gregory XIII attained. The maps were painted between 1580 and 1583 by Ignazio Danti, a major cosmographer of the sixteenth century.

The tunnel is 120 meters long and six meters wide, with a barrel vaulted ceiling. The hallways was built between 1578 and 1580 by Octavian Matte.

Each map is divided by Italy’s regions, from the Alps to the Adriatic Sea. Each regional map is accompanied by its native plant and a small illustration of the most populated town.

Four major ports of that period are depicted at the entrance wall; Civitavecchia, Genoa, Venice and Ancona. the Siege of Malta, Battle of Lepanto, and Elba Island are a collection of battles depicted in the gallery as well.

In 1631, by order of Pope Urban VIII, the maps were completed by Luca Holste. Two other painters by the names of Cesare Nebbia and Girolamo Muziano coordinated the completion of the Gallery of Maps, along with a larger group of painters who painted a series of 80 episodes with stories of saints of the Church, linked to the corresponding maps.

The impressive Gallery of the Maps is being restored thanks to the generosity of the United Kindom and California Chapters.

Italia Antiqua