The Menorah: Worship, History, and Legend

15 May-23 July 2017


You shall make a menorah* of pure beaten gold—its shaft and branches—with its cups and knobs and petals springing directly from it. Six branches are to extend from its sides, three branches on one side, and three on the other…. You shall then make seven lamps for it and so set up the lamps that they give their light on the space in front of the menorah. These, as well as the trimming shears and trays, must be of pure gold.”

(Exodus 25:31-32, 37-38)


With his instructions received directly from God in the Torah, Moses entrusts the Menorah’s fashioning to artisan Bezalel, and the seven-branched candelabrum enters into the era of history and man. The Menorah is a beacon of light and hope for the Children of Israel in their exile. It was to be displayed in the first temple of Jerusalem affront the Holy of Holies, evoking in its imagery both a foretaste of the heavenly temple for which the chosen people longed, as well as the imagery of the Burning Bush and the Tree of Life. Abruptly displaced from its role of providing a sound meaning and iconography to the Jewish people, the candelabrum is most likely vandalized by the Babylonian tyrant Nebuchadnezzar in his destruction of the first temple in 586 BC. Then, the Roman general Titus eradicates the second reconstructed Temple completely in 70 AD. The Menorah is sacked from the Temple and put on a ship bound for Rome, where the candelabrum begins its perpetual nomadic fate. The exhibition hosts a variety of large-scale paintings that visually lead the visitor through the eventful history of the iconic Menorah. For example, the Destruction of the Temple masterpieces, two by Niccolas Poussin (loaned from the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna) and another by Francesco Hayez (his work from the Venice Gallery of Modern Art) are monumental paintings with confusing crowds of Roman invaders and Jewish defenders. Yet the robbery of the Menorah seems to be always a central scene of the picture. Hayez’ painting allows us to see how three men were needed to carry the heavy candelabrum; they are lifting the symbol of the spoils high above their heads, as its branches clearly stand out in front of the white Temple walls.


Francesco Hayez-Destruction of Temple (depicting destruction in 70 AD) Francesco Hayez, Destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem, 1863-67
Venezia, Galleria d’Arte Moderna di Ca’ Pesaro
olio su tela, 183 x 282 cm

Joseph-Noël Sylvestre’s Sack of Rome by the Barbarians in 410 shows the further fate of the Menorah during the event in which Rome had fallen to a foreign enemy for the first time in 800 years. In three days the city was looted completely and the Goths took enormous treasures with them—most likely including objects once belonging to the Jewish Temple.

Sylvestre-Sack of Rome Joseph-Noël Sylvestre, The Sack of Rome by the Barbarians in 410, 1890

As Rome was the location where the Menorah began its endless pilgrimage, there is no better place than the Eternal City itself to host the first-ever collaborative exhibition between the Vatican Museums and the Jewish Museum of Rome. The two locations encourage visitors to traverse the streets of Rome to explore the exhibition in two separate locations. With over 140 exhibits from 40 museums worldwide, it is possible to follow the cult, history, and legend of the Menorah from ancient times to its modern-day image, through a rich journey of art. The figurative paintings, illustrated codices, and candelabrums allow every pilgrim in Rome to embark upon the journey through history and mystery as told through the symbol that most dynamically epitomizes the Jewish culture and religion. The show offers a depth of insight into the temple culture surrounding the Menorah as well as its modern uses and interpretations. Loaned from the Albertina Museum in Vienna, Raphael’s first sketch of the Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple illustrates how in the Christian pictorial tradition, famous scenes located in the temple often show the Menorah in a very prominent position.

Rafael, Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple, 1511 252 x 416 mm Albertina, Vienna

In this scene, which the Syrian general Heliodorus tries to sack the temple in Jerusalem, his plan is thwarted thanks to prayers of the high priest. Interestingly, in this preliminary drawing, Raphael places the Menorah in a more striking position than in his final fresco in the Stanza di Heliodorus in the Vatican Museums. An astute eye may have seen that in the sketch the high priest seems to be almost touched by the high priest praying for salvation, whereas its position is very different on the walls of the Vatican. In Andrea Sacchi’s Annunciation to Zachariah, an angel announces to the Jewish priest that his wife Elizabeth would give birth to a son, to whom he was to name John, and that this son would be the forerunner of the Lord.

Andrea Sacchi, L’Annunciazione a Zaccaria (per il Battistero di San Giovanni in Laterano)
Musei Vaticani, Pinacoteca
310 x 250 cm

Since the encounter with the heavenly messenger took place in the Temple, we can see that the painting in the Menorah right behind the two protagonists. Its branches fill the space between the faces of Zachariah and the angel. The candelabrum, then, serves as a visual element that spiritually “links” the faith of the Jewish religion (represented by Zachariah) to the Christian religion (the angel bearing news of the Lord). Today the Menorah still evokes much imagery and meaning for both the Jewish and Christian Religions. Lampstands from both the Hebrew tradition as well as seven-branched candelabra from Christian Churches are on display. Aside from the physical lampstands themselves providing theological interpretations, modern designs, via mass production, take the longstanding symbol in wide circulation. As the Menorah has become par-excellence the symbol of Judaism, it is fitting that it was chosen for the emblem for Israel.

Emblem for Israel: The 1948 competition winner for the Emblem of Israel

The exhibition even hosts the 1948 competition winner, signed by Israel’s first Prime Minister.  Here the Menorah is displayed on a shield, in a way reminiscent from the imagery in the book of Zachariah: the candelabrum is flanked by olive trees, from where the oil to light it originates. The Menorah is depicted as it is seen in the Arch of Titus, commemorating the destruction of the Temple under his tyranny. Modern pieces included in the special collection ranges from art from the hands of Jewish artists such as Marc Chagall and William Kentridge to Michael Netzer. Raised in an Orthodox Jewish family, Chagall was heavily influenced by his family upbringing and the Jewish fatalities 1938 as a result of the “Reichskristallnacht” (when Nazi Germans ransacked Jewish-owned establishments). His colorful pastels exhibiting the deep roots of his Hebrew heritage are part of the exhibit.

Marc Chagall, Tribe of Levi, 1960; litografia, 42 x 30 cm; From the Marc Chagall Museum, Vitebsk

Kentridge’s 2016 preparatory drawings for highlight the important scenes from sack of the Temple by Titus’ troops. One can see his preliminary sketches in the Vatican, and then walking down by the Tevere River towards the Jewish quarter, view the drawings immortalized in his Triumph and Lamentations graffiti on the embankment walls between Ponte Sisto and Ponte Mazzini. The latter artist, Netzer, brings the Menorah to life through his super-hero Uri-On, who tries to thwart evil enemies, pursue good, and whose mission is to defend his ancient homeland.

Michael Netzer , Uri-On, 1987, Israeli Comics, Ltd. Issue no 1. 22x18cm Jerusalem, Shalom Sabar Collection.

Many superhero creators were actually Jews. In particular, Netzer takes his character Uri-On and places a colorful Menorah on his suit. Just like a superhero, Uri-On’s logo is a figure imbued with supernatural elements, evoking hope and salvation.The real heroes of this exhibit, however, are those who made it possible. It is curated and directed by Arnold Nesselrath (deputy of the Vatican Museums), Alessandra Di Castro (Director of the Jewish Museum of Rome), and Francesco Leone (Associate professor of Art History at Univ. G. Di’Annunzio). Half of the funds needed for the exhibit were made on behalf of the Jewish community thanks to a great endowment by R. Lauder. For a significant part of the rest of the funds, our Patrons family came together in a path of solidarity to make the event possible. The California, New York, Northwest, Michigan, Illinois, Canada Chapters and other private donors all contributed to the exhibition. Thanks to their generosity, visitors to the exhibition may witness the mysteries of faith in a multicultural experience and participate in a journey of interfaith dialogue.



“The Life of a Swiss Guard, A Private View” in Washington, DC

The Exhibition was unveiled Thursday night at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception with welcome remarks from Msgr. Walter Rossi of the Basilica, Most Rev. Christopher Pierre, Apostolic Nuncio and Msgr. Charles Antonicelli, representative for Cardinal Wuerl.


Father Daniel Hennessy, Romina Cometti, CEM and Judy Martin Chapter Leaders of Washington DC Chapter

Col. Christian Lanz of the Embassy of Switzerland attended and briefly spoke about traits needed to become a
Swiss Guard. Father Daniel Hennessy, our International Director, traveled from Rome to spend the week in WDC and offered his thanks to the DC Patrons for bringing the exhibit to the city. Dr. Geraldine Rohling, archivist for BNSIC was recognized for her assistance in setting up the event and Dr. Romina Cometti, who curated the exhibit and who we all know from the Patrons office in Rome, spoke about the origins of the exhibition and its message. Two former Swiss Guards, Andreas Widmer and Dr. Mario Enzler, offered humorous accounts of their decisions to become a Swiss Guard and a few stories about their time with St. John Paul II and how if deepened their faith. CEM Martin, who acted as emcee, thanked the DC Patrons for their generosity and support as they made this Vatican Museums exhibit possible for thousands of visitors to enjoy. About 80 guests were there to enjoy the wonderful hors d’oeuvres and period music provided by Concerto Degli Imperfetti, led by Jean Cioffi. The exhibit was on show at the National Shrine in Memorial Hall from April 6 through May 21, 2017.



Life of a Swiss Guard at the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts Museum

The photography exhibition, Life of a Swiss Guard: A Private View has been open to the public from February 4 through March 25, 2017 at Faneuil Hall on the 4th floor of the historic building, above the Great Hall, in theAncient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts Museum.

‘Life of a Swiss Guard’, reveals the most photographedmilitary corps in the world in a new light, away from the uniforms and flags. The exhibit was prominently displayed in the Vatican Museums Cortile delle Corazze in Rome this past spring, and was unveiled at Faneuil Hall following a stop in California.

The Swiss Guard has a historic connection to the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company in Boston. The AHAC dates back to 1638, making it the third oldest military organization in the world after the Honourable Artillery Company of London (1537) and the Vatican’s Pontifical Swiss Guard (1506) is the oldest chartered military organization in the western hemisphere. AHAC’s charter was granted in March 1638 by the Great and General Court of Massachusetts Bay and signed by Governor John Winthrop.

The photography exhibition, Life of a Swiss Guard: A Private View has beenopen to the public from February 4 through March 25, 2017 at Faneuil Hall on the 4th floor of the historic building, above the Great Hall, in theAncient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts Museum.

‘Life of a Swiss Guard’, reveals the most photographed military corps in the world in a new light, away from the uniforms and flags. The exhibit was prominently displayed in the Vatican Museums Cortile delle Corazze in Rome this past spring, and was unveiled at Faneuil Hall following a stop in California.The Swiss Guard has a historic connection to the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company in Boston. The AHAC dates back to 1638, making it the third oldest military organization in the world after the HonourableArtillery Company of London (1537) and the Vatican’s Pontifical Swiss Guard (1506) is the oldest chartered military organization in the western hemisphere. AHAC’s charter was granted in March 1638 by the Great and General Court of Massachusetts Bay and signed by Governor John Winthrop.




Credit to Matt Conti – “”

Vatican Museums restorers save artworks in Italy’s earthquake zones

Firefighters inspect artwork rescued from a church in quake-struck Norcia, Italy - AP

Firefighters inspect artwork rescued from a church in quake-struck Norcia, Italy – AP

(Vatican Radio) Five restorers from the Vatican Museums are working to salvage works of art in churches and towns damaged in recent earthquakes in central Italy: that, according to Barbara Jatta, the Museums’ new director who takes up her post on January 1.  At a press conference Friday, Jatta said most are working in Umbria, between Norcia and Spoleto.

The Vatican Museums’ first woman director said some 20 of the institution’s  65 experts have offered to collaborate with local municipal arts departments to secure fresco cycles and important works buried under the rubble.  The Vatican newspaper, Osservatore Romano, reports that many of the works will be brought to the Museums’ restoration labs to be cleaned and repaired.

Jatta added that the Museums are also supporting the quake zones’ economies by purchasing local food products for their catering services.

Though access to the damaged areas is challenging amid continuous tremors, the Vatican restorers have already inspected 25 churches and 6 fresco cycles.  25 important but injured works of art have been recovered.

Article posted on the Radio Vaticana website


braccio nuovo


Wednesday Dicember 21st, 2016 |  5:30PM
Free Entrance from Viale Vaticano showing the invitation
Starting from 5:00PM until 6:00PM

Located between the Chiaramonti Gallery and the Profane Museum, the Braccio Nuovo is one of the most frequented and admired Galleries inside the Vatican.  Built under the supervision of Raffaele Stern during the pontificate of Pope Pius VII and opened to the public in 1822, The Braccio Nuovo is one of the most beautiful examples of Neoclassical Art.  The architecture and colored marble (often taken from old Roman buildings) recall the ancient and glorious past where classic sculptures are displayed in ideal niches similar to their original ambience. The caisson ceiling has skylights that allow natural light to break through and illuminate the whole architectural space. The walls are decorated with stucco-friezes in bas reliefs done by Francesco Massimiliano Laboureur and inspired by famous Roman monuments (e.g. the Trajan Column and the Arch of Titus in the Roman Forum). There are niches that showcase the statues perfectly. Several busts are located on small columns and shelves.

Veduta del Braccio Nuovo con la Statua del Nilo, Musei Vaticani


Sculpture Restoration in the Braccio Nuovo

Braccio Nuovo 04

This amazing project began in 2009 thanks to the generosity of the Patrons of the Arts, and with the addition of this project, became the first Gallery entirely restored by Patrons! Some of the most important dinners for both the Cardinals and the Patrons of the Arts are held in this marvellous place. This project focussed on the restoration of the sculptures and friezes located on the left hand side of the wall up to the Nile Statue. The task was to complete the cleaning of 132 busts and statues. This project proved an invaluable opportunity for a comprehensive and thorough study of the sculptures and has produced results of importance for the history of restorations between the 16th through the 19th centuries. The Braccio Nuovo, born expressly as a museum display room, is unique from all other galleries in the museums and is one of our most scenic. For the first time in the history of the Museums, an entire selection of classical sculpture has been studied according to a well-planned program both in regards to the historical documentary research and the technical production. The entire project was intended to become a paradigmatic model of intervention to be extended to other areas of the museums of classical sculpture. The work provided a conservative intervention of surface cleaning, grouting and aesthetic treatment for all the sculptures and busts, as well as maintenance on the stucco friezes performed by the Marble Laboratory. All phases of work were duly documented with photographs and the creation of graphics. A database recording each conservation sculptural work and the model used by the laboratory accompanied the intervention.

Braccio Nuovo 05

State of Preservation before the restoration:

The statues of the Braccio Nuovo were characterized by a large quantity of previous restorations and integrations with stucco and mortar that needed to be removed and redone. Several statues were restored by mixing elements together. Layers of dust and old varnish covered the surfaces and needed to be removed. Naturally, the cleaning enabled a better preservation for the future and increase the public’s appreciation of these pieces.

Restoration Process undertaken for each Statue included:

  • Diagnosis of state and conditions
  • Photographic documentation before restoration
  • Location for scaffolding
  • Laboratory analysis
  • Choice of a suitable cleaning system
  • 3D documentation
  • Cleaning and consolidation of the surface
  • Removal of previous restorations, integrations and consolidations
  • Cleaning of the dark stains resulted from water and pollution
  • Checking and possible removal of iron nails located in the marble structure replaced with fibreglass or steal
  • Recreation of a chromatic balance on the entire surface where needed
  • Overall lay out of protective layer
  • Photographic documentation: 8 photos for each statue; 4 for each bust
  • 3D documentation as integration to the previous one in order to obtain historical documentation of the piece when the ancient restoration is removed
  • Data processing for complete documentation for each single statue



Mosaics Restoration in the Braccio Nuovo

Artist: Unknown
Date: 2nd Century AD
Dimensions: 5,60 x 1.50 ; 5,60x 5,60
Material: Stone
Inventory Number: 45766-45767

The restoration of these two mosaics completed the conservation work which has been carried on for some years now on the floor of the Braccio Nuovo Gallery. At the archaeological excavations conducted brac1between 1817 and 1821 in the area of Tor Marancia on the Via Ardeatina, just outside the Porta San Sebastiano, were found the remains of at least two large residential areas of senatorial families dating back to the second century AD. Some names of the owners, Munatia Procula, Numisia Procula and Fulvius Petronius Aemilianus, still appear on the Fistula aquarium. The archaeological research was carried out by the Marquis Luigi Biondi, butler and superintendent of the property of Princess Maria of Savoy Chablais, daughter of King Vittorio Amedeo III of Sardinia, who, in her will, left the Vatican Museums a part of his collection, now primarily displayed in the Gallery of the Candelabra. A few of the mosaic floors found during the excavations entered in the Vatican collections and were placed, highly integrated and reassembled, in the floor of the Braccio Nuovo, which opened to the public in 1822. These mosaics are made with white and black tiles. Their outline is decorated with geometric patterns or clusters with small birds pecking at grapes, while the central area contains  more complex figurative scenes: marine courting, some episodes of the legendary wanderings of Ulysses in the Mediterranean and, finally, a large representation of Dionysian scenes. At the corners of the Dionysian scene are located tufts of acanthus foliage. At the four corners there are pictures of young satyrs bearing the typical attributes of Tirso and goat skin garments. At the centre there is an older bearded satyr, and a Bacchante with a crown of vine leaves on his head; both are imbued with wine and dance.

Mosaics_in_the_Braccio_Nuovo, 2

Across the Mosaic, several different restorations—completed during the past few centuries—are evident at surface level. Their visibility is due to the fact that these restoration treatments were, unfortunately, not carried out according to the now established ethics of conservation and bylaws of reversibility in restoration. One particularly compromising restoration, executed in the brac1960s, inserted cement tiles directly into the mosaic and affixed the entire piece to nine metal platforms. These metal platforms eventually became one of the major stresses of the mosaic, as they caused several breaks in the surface structure and, consequentially, the loss of many surface tiles. The mosaic had also been integrated in several areas with lime stone and pozzolana materials. The most harmful material used ended up being the cement, which literally broke parts of the mosaic and its tiles into pieces. Restorers also found that the mosaic’s original limestone, which had originally (and continuously) been keeping portions of the work together, was severely deteriorated and had become another culprit behind the daily loss of tiles and smaller pieces of the mosaic. The first stage of the restoration began with a thorough removal of the many types of deposits that had accumulated in the spaces between the tiles. Next, the surface wax that had been applied to the floor of the Braccio Nuovo, and thus the surface of the mosaic, was removed in order to allow for a better absorption of the consolidating substances applied by the restorers, where needed. The entire surface was then delicately treated: old mortar was carefully removed, and the process of reintegrating missing pieces began. All the missing tiles were reintegrated with new ones that were purposely painted “sottotono” (using a lower tone of color ) in order to showcase the current restoration, following the ethics of conservation and bylaws of restoration of the Vatican Museums: restorers aim to return a work to its necessary level of readability, but only in a way that does not mask the original. The team created a graphic documentation of the work, in order to track the positions of all tiles, original and non-original. Next, restorers applied a silica-based mixture in between and beneath the tiles to consolidate the entire mosaic. Then, gaps were reintegrated with ancient mosaic tiles that were best suited to homogenize the work. These tiles were grouted with mortar in three different tones: one for the dark figures, the black bars, and the perimeter of the frame, one clear mortar for the white areas, and a neutral tone for the central area and the bands of mosaics

State of Preservation before the restoration:

The mosaics were in overall good condition but some tiles were slowly detaching due to time, corrosion and in particular, the heavy travertine support system.

Restoration Process Included:

  • Cleaning of the mosaic surface
  • Replacing of the travertine support with a flexible aluminium honeycomb (areolam)
  • Restoration of the bedding of the tiles.

Thanks to donations from Mr. & Mrs. Petrosky and Robert LoCascio of the New York Chapter, The Statues and the Mosaics in the Braccio Nuovo have been fully restored. Found during excavations of second century dwellings, these marvelously intricate floors were beginning to crack and develop discoloration. Broken tiles were reintroduced and the floor was sealed according to modern restoration techniques so as not to undermine the integrity of the original. Restorers Robert Cassio, Paolo Monaldi and Danielle Belladonna worked laboriously to insure that we can still see the work of the original craftsmen. The finished product is as gloriously represented as when the floors were first completed almost 2,000 years ago.




DSC_3864 - Copia

Long and arduous is the history of the Chair of St. Peter. In 1658, Pope Alexander VII, always turning his attention to Divine Worship and the greater glory of the saints, decided to give the Chair of St. Peter a more worthy residence. The original Chair, according to medieval tradition, was where Saint Peter sat as the first Bishop of Rome and first Pope to instruct the early Christians. It is a venerated wood and ivory relic, and a gift from the Holy Roman Emperor Charles the Bald to Pope John VII in 875. Years later, Pope Alexander VII communicated his intentions of homage and
devotion to his most favorite sculptor Giovanni Lorenzo _ Bernini. The artist at once set out on paper to draft ideas for a project that indubitably would, for its supreme beauty and importance, be undeniably worthy of the “sublime intentions” of the Holy Pontiff.

This was indeed the case. In the apse of St. Peter’s Basilica, Bernini’s monumental magnum opus was born, masterfully executed in marble, gilded stucco and bronze, and would be known through the ages as the Chair of St. Peter. Bernini actually invented a type of grandiose reliquary for the chair a veritable theatrical machine in which the four Doctors of the Church, larger than life, support a bronze chair (encapsulating the original wooden relic) that miraculously rises towards angelic hosts and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. The preparatory models of the angels and the heads of Saints Athanasius and John Chrysostom are already restored, thanks the generous contributions of the New York Chapter and Mrs. Romanelli of the Patrons of the Arts. The angel models actually vary in size (there are two larger and two smaller), as they correspond to two various stages of design elaboration. These clay and straw models used for the fusion of the bronze figures of the Chair are precious witnesses of the evolution of the overall work. They testify to how the immense undertaking was transformed over the course of a decade during which Bernini continuously labored with his grand project. The work, in fact, unfolded with great difficulty. At first, Bernini had designed the Altar of the Chair much smaller with respect to the current design. The Altar visible today in St. Peter’s is about 30 meters high – over twice the size of the original project. The first stage is reflected in the models of the two smaller angels, which were eventually rejected since they no longer aligned within the new grandiose structure. The source of this change stems from when, in 1658-1660, Bernini made a life-sized model of the altar in wood and plaster to fit into the apse of St. Peter’s in order to verify the project’s proportions.

The angels set against this model were altogether too small. Years later, Lyon Pascoli in his book “Lives”, recalls the episode when Bernini met with a fellow painter friend, Andrea Sacchi. Pascoli writes, “…they entered the church, and little by little came closer to the cross. Noticing that Andrea had still not yet discovered the Chair, Bernini continued to walk so as to lead his friend closer to see it. Andrea, however, remained in his place and said, ‘Here, Mr. Bernini, is the place from where I would like to see, and where one should be able to see the work, and where I long for it to come into view.’ Since this was the point of the visit, Bernini considered and reconsidered Andrea’s words while the latter, still without a quiver of movement or one step forward, added that the three statues from that vantage point should be at least a good hand’s width larger. Leaving the church without anything more to say, Andrea entered his carriage to depart….Meanwhile, the great Bernini who already had known all this himself, angrily set off to recreate his figures”. (L. Pascoli, “Lives”, 1730).


It was like this, then, and with the help of sculptors Ercole Ferrata and Antonio Raggi, that Bernini decided to enlarge the monument, for which he made a second version of the angels and the heads of Saints Athanasius and John Chrysostom, now restored. The second version of the angels, much larger and proportional to the whole of the altar, was used for the bronze casting. Once the size was clarified, undertaking the Chair’s execution was an event filled with suffering. Bernini persevered despite King Louis XIV ‘s mandate for him to remain in France. The artist, so far away from Rome, would sometimes have tears welling up in his eyes when thinking about the work. The work was finally finished in 1666. In a solemn procession, the work was carried in to be placed in the Bernini masterpiece. The hailed artist wrote to his friend in Chantelou, France, “It is by the grace of God that I finished the Chair.”


Model for an Altar Angel of the Blessed sacrament in saint Peter’s Basilica

Already in 1629 Pope Urban VIII had commissioned Bernini to design an altar in St. Peter’s Basilica dedicated to the most Blessed Sacrament. The Holy Pontiff never had, however, the joy of seeing the work completed. The long design phase that included several revisions ended only in 1673 under the papacy of Pope Clement X, culminating in an altar design in which the tabernacle is flanked on either side by two angels, adoring, and on bended knee. The kneeling angel, now restored, is the model for the bronze casting, and is located on the right of the tabernacle. The angel was made from clay and straw by Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini with the help of Giovanni Rinaldi in 1673



The restoration work began with a preliminary dust removal, which clearly showed that in numerous places parts of the plaster were missing, and had been subject to past efforts to fill and reconstruct them. In turn, they were cleverly disguised with coloured paints stretching over the original surfaces. A notable type of dust particulate present on the work made it evident that the constitutive elements of the work (i.e wood and straw) were at one point compromised by insect infestation, clearly necessitating the need for anoxic disinfestation treatment. The deposits of dust and layer of dirt that greyed the surfaces were removed by special gum erasers varying in their texture and composition. Varnishes and other invasive substances were eliminated with solvent packs in order to not leave any marks or stains on the clay. This substance was also applied in the areas where the iron structural elements were corroded in order to slow down further degradation.

At the end of revitalizing most of the surfaces from the time when the angels were originally executed, it was necessary to then remove the most recent “refurbishing” interventions that were made. These attempts to consolidate the piece with plaster actually contributed in part to the piece’s overall degradation. The works were also pieced back together. The consolidation efforts, mainly adhesions and structural reconstructions, were executed using an impasto with a cellulite base specifically formulated for this project. Its characteristic ease in application and workability, lightness, maximum reversibility, and, most importantly, its lack of aqueous or greasy solvents rendered this impasto perfect for the job. The visible surfaces of these reconstructions were successfully camouflaged by using watercolor paints applied with a stippling technique. The result: a perceptibly homogenous and intact piece.

The Carpe Diem of Emotions


Medardo Rosso at work in his studio, 1980

Seeing, feeling, creating. This, the process through which Medardo Rosso developed his sculptures. This Italian sculpture is well-known for his artistic rebellion towards the strict and un-emotional canons of sculpting, dominant throughout the 19th century. By breaking free from these purely representational standards, and the solid and static features of the century, Rosso managed to become one of the first truly modern sculptors.


Brera Academy

Rosso was born in Turin where his father worked as a Railway Station manager. He began developing his talent as a stone carver when his family moved to Milan. At the age of 23, after serving in the army, he enrolled at the Brera Academywhere he learned to draw classical statues and completed several models in stucco. Rosso had a rebellious nature, however, and did not like normal academic art lessons that focused solely on classical statues. He demanded instead that live models be used for the drawing classes. Eventually, Rosso left the Academy for Rome, where he lived in poverty. In his 1889 almanac of living artists, De Gubernatis describes Rosso:


Jules Dalou in his studio, 1899

(He) rebelled at each school with each method, with each Academy, abhorring anything that smacks of trade, of artifice, soon found himself alone, without support, without master, without counselors, and with a bunch of captive and envious colleagues who tripped him when he tried to demonstrate his abilities, his ingenuity.

Despite his rebellion against classical art, Rosso developed his talent and conceived of his own artistic style. In 1882, he produced his first impressionistic sculptures: the Street Singer and Lovers under the Lamplight. In 1884, some friends arranged an exhibition for him in Paris, where he was living at the time.  In that same year, he also put on an exhibition at the Salon des Indépendants where he met Edgar Degas and Rodin. The sculptor and teacher Jules Dalou allowed Rosso to work in his Paris studio.

In 1885, Rosso returned to Milan although he stayed in close touch with friends in Paris. In 1886, the writer Émile Zola bought a bronze by Rosso, bestowing on him a considerable amount of celebrity. Rodin offered to exchange a sculpted torso of his own for Rosso’s recent head of a laughing woman. It is worth noting that Rosso’s works were much more popular in France than in Italy.

Rosso always tried to render the transitory effects of light into solid sculpture. He achieved this effect by using wax instead of marble or clay. This technique allowed him to spontaneously model and manipulate light and shadow so as to produce the effect of color. In this process, the distinctive characteristics of his material played an increasingly important part. A paraphrase of Gubernatis’s description states:

The rules of art, knowledge, culture, will help you to better understand the proportions of a given work …but will never tell you anything, or yield the most applause… or reveal the soul, the expression, the moment with the same truth that is presented to us at that time, under the impression given in the real world. Rosso’s much loved and publicized Bersagliere at the Paris Salon  is a successful head: there is truth, there is expression, there is color. For the artist, it all lies in choosing the right moment to characterize the subject, and this divination, this deep feeling mixed with some knowledge of the individual is the main talent of genius, the hallmark of his work. For an artist to be truly worthy of that name, he must first be original. Having ideas about art or attending one school rather than another does not say make you an artist. The important thing is to derive from your mind its first impression of a subject, and to then render it as you feel. Medardo Rosso is a realist, but a realist who portrays the enchanting beauty of nature, of feeling, of the heart, representing the vices and virtues, the beautiful and the deformed.

Rosso was able to maintain a studio and hold a number of exhibitions in Paris. In 1896, he had an exhibition at the Goupil Gallery in London and also successfully exhibited in New York. Toward the end of his life, he suffered from diabetes and developed cancer in one foot. Sadly, he died shortly after the turn of the century after the amputation of the cancerous leg was ineffective. He continued to sculpt until his death.

These sculptures, along with the other works made by Medardo Rosso, depict technical and conceptual perspectives that one may find in the work of the unquestionable artists of the 20th century.

The Vatican Museums were fortunate to obtain the two works by Medardo Rosso,  Aetas Aurea and Sick Child. They are splendid examples of the results achieved by a master sculptor in the art of shaping the wax.


Aetas Aurea

Aetas Aurea was created by the artist in approximately 1886, collected by Mr. Aldo Rondo, and now housed in the Vatican Museums in the department dedicated to Contemporary Art and art of the 19th century. Paste wax, plaster, and metal reinforcement are the three materials that combine into one emotional moment depicting the scene of a woman embracing her child. Aetas Aurea is one of the three versions of a portrait of his wife and son, Judith Wells and Francis, that Rosso created. He chose to model this sculpture off of another of his works, Motherly Love, which was completed in 1883 when he started to use wax.


This sculpture is centered around a mother kissing her baby. Rather than creating a sculpture in the round as is traditional, Rosso chose to sculpt only the front of the figures, leaving the back, so as to focus on the effects of light and shadow on the surface. The faces blend into one another, accentuating the intensity of the relationship between mother and child; the diagonal position of the composition gives the image a dynamic, life-giving contact between the two.


Scansione da ekta (13x18 cm) n 32086

Sick child

Sick child, also called Enfant à Laborisière Mourant or Impression, belongs to Rosso’s series of portraits of children. It is believed that he completed this work at the hospital Laborisière of Paris, where he was being treated in 1889. Almost completely devoid of facial featScansione da ekta (13x18 cm) n 32086ures, this sculpture shows that Rosso has surpassed the simple intention of a realistic rendering of the subject’s face. The figure preserves only a vague memory of the subject’s appearance, but  instead has a psychological depth that goes beyond the physical appearance.

In general, this avant-garde works of art presented a good conservation conditions. However, the surfaces, the supports, the chromatic ensemble and the reintegration that was added during previous restorations needed some work. Thanks to the generosity of Mrs. Bernadette Boyd, Louisiana Chapter, and the tremendous work of our highly professional restorers, the Vatican Museums managed to bring this piece to its original beauty.

The main objectives of the restoration process were:

  • The re-attachment of the stone support to the wax;
  • The fixing of the fractures present on the child’s head;
  • The cleaning of the sculpture by removing the limited particle and dust deposits;

The restoration process managed to suture both the separation between the support and the wax and the crack which was on the child’s head; both of these procedures were brought forth using new micro crystalline wax. The cleaning process was done through the use of water.










The Astarita collection

The Astarita collection is an ensemble of Attic pottery and other Greek ceramics of Corinthian, Greek-Eastern, Laconic and Euboian origin that was donated to the Vatican, more precisely to Pope Paul VI, in 1967. This collection was founded by and named after Mario Astarita, an exemplary expert of the field, in memory of his parents and wife. Moreover, it stands as an ultimate demonstration ofFOTO DIGITALE the evolution of the stylistic characteristics of Greek art, while demonstrating the different aspects of Greek life and culture. In fact, the forms that Greek ceramics had were dictated by their domestic use.

Through the Canada Chapter’s funding and amazing collaboration, in May 2015 our restorer Giulia Barrella managed to bring the collection back to life, she had been working on the project since August 2014 in the Metal and Ceramic Restoration Laboratory of the Vatican Museums.

Restoration after restoration, these vases have been undergoing centuries of unsuitable techniques which resulted in a vast amount of damage to the collection. More than anything, the glue was damaging the structure of the vases and destabilizing the plaster. All the previously mentioned restorations, caused further cracking on the surface. Lastly, the touchups that had been performed in previous restorations were done poorly and several areas had been completely repainted. Due to these issues, the collection needed a lot of work.


Our team of restorers began by completing photographic documentation of the vases and a very scrupulous study of the their state of preservation. Then, the restorer proceeded to remove the effects of the previous restorations; two of the vases were completely dismantled by fully immersing them into hot water. The old glues and dust were cleaned from the surface of the vases and the previous repaintings of the original decorative designs were completely eliminated with solvents and a scalpel. Certain gaps and cracks were filled using stucco; others needed the addition of marble powder to help the pieces’ adherence. In regards to the re-integration and touch-ups, the Museums’ Diagnostic Laboratory followed the usual practices. There were no new figures nor paintings created, with the exception of certain geometric decorations.




Chinese horizontal painted scroll: The Great Wall of China

great-wall-of-china-1113691_960_720A Chinese proverb says “the person who says it cannot be done, should not interrupt the person doing it.” Would you believe a person who said they wanted to build a wall that was 5,550.3 miles (8,851.8 km) long? And what if that person said that the only materials they needed were stone, brick, tamped earth and wood? With what probability would that wall become the most extensive construction project ever realized by man? Would you believe that wall could last for more than 2,000 years? This has all happened with the realization of the Great Wall of China. In fact, in the 3rd century BC, Emperor Qin Shi Huang, ordered the wall erected in order to prevent incursions from barbarian nomads into the Chinese Empire. Although this aim was never truly fulfilled under a practical point of view, the Wall indeed worked as a psychological barrier between Chinese civilization and the world. It is estimated that millions of people worked on the wall over the course of more than 1,000 years.Great_Wall_of_China_at_Dandong

After all these centuries, the Great Wall is still symbol of the country’s enduring strength. Even more, it is an emblem of how extravagant Chinese art and architecture can be. There are many paintings, poems, operas, stories, and legends inspired by the Great Wall. Among them is the “Chinese horizontal painted scroll: The Great Wall of China.” The scroll, of which the artist is unknown, dates back to the seventeenth century and is a detailed map depicting the Great Wall, as well as geographical terrain and camps; it is a testimony of great documentary value and historical interest. Signs and captions permit extensive knowledge of the area. Another unique aspect is the representation, following Chinese orientation, of the north in the lower part of the work.


This scroll once belonged in the collection of Cardinal Stefano Borgia in Velletri. This work of art is at the core of the oldest section of the Ethnological Museum as attested by the Cardinal’s letter dated January 14th, 1792. It became part of the Borgiano Museum of Propaganda Fide in 1805. Around 1928, it was acquired by the Congregation of Propaganda Fide for the Ethnological Museum’s collection.


Unfortunately, this work of art was in a poor state of preservation. There were extensive surface deposits and traces of glue on both the front and back of the painted scroll, as well as various stains, pigment separations, and general browning. Also, the scroll was left in unfriendly conditions due to long term preservation, which contributed to the artwork’s damages. For example, the decision to roll the scroll for such a long period made the glue harden, thus creating folds on the silk and paper. The degradation of the artifact was chiefly due to the temperature and humidity of the environment in which it was stored.


Thanks to the wonderful sponsorship of The Singapore Chapter, this special piece has been bought back to life, paying homage to its beauty. Along with the immense generosity of our Patrons, our expert conservationists have managed to restore and maintain the precious artistic heritage. The first procedure was an anoxic disinfestation: a process devised for insect control on artifacts. The second step involved a surface cleaning process. Initially, conservationists dusted the surface using a soft bristle brush and scrubbed it with a sponge and micro suction. Then, restorers removed the old glue with a scalpel and cleaned the back surface by moisturizing it with a water-alcohol solution.


Mechanically, restorers eliminated the old restorations, because these previous changes were made with very thick and inadequate Japanese paper. All the weakened parts were reinforced with Japanese gauze, whereas the pigments were consolidated with Jun-Funori adhesive at 1% water solution and applied with brush. Additionally, the gaps were closed using Japanese paper, pigmented in the same tone of the original.  Conservationists further used a wheat starch glue to close the gaps between the silk and paper. Finally, the scroll was lightly moistened and flattened between antacid cardboard, as this type of cardboard is highly durable.

Greetings from the New Director of the PAVM, Fr. Daniel Hennessy L.C.

Several days after my arrival in Rome on January 6, I accompanied Fr Mark Haydu to the Patrons’ Office in the Vatican and after being greeted ceremoniously by both the Gendamerie and the Swiss Guards with their signature salute, I was taken to the top of a scaffolding in some obscure corner of the Apostolic Palace, and found myself face to face with a fresco by Giorgio Vasari – a name that I struggled to pull from the dusty archives of my memories of art history classes attended decades ago. As I listened to the explanation of the restoration process, I quickly formed a deep admiration for DSC_3621the men and women who dedicate themselves to this work, day in and day out here in the Vatican. Restoring a fresco seemed to me to be a bit like this: prepare the equivalent of a doctoral dissertation on the archival documentation relevant to the work to be restored; then prepare a scientific analysis of the present condition of the work, also roughly equivalent to a doctoral dissertation; then make painstaking decisions about how to proceed with the restoration, which materials to use, how to divide the work, etc; then carry out the restoration literally one centimeter at a time. It would be like cleaning my kitchen with a Q-tip. Thus began my first day in the office as the incoming International Director of the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums.

fd photoThe first thing I learned about the position was that I was surrounded and supportedDSC_3616 by extraordinary people. The staff in the Vatican Office: Sara, Romina, and Gabriella who are so well known and admired by our Patrons; as well as Chiara, Ami, and Leticia, our knowledgeable interns, guides and other collaborators who are of such invaluable service for the ongoing daily operations of our Patrons’ Office. Then there are Monsignor Terence Hogan and Lorna Richardson on the other side of the ocean, who put their hearts into everything related with the Patrons. The folks in the Museums are first-rate: from the restorers themselves, to the curators, to the administrator, scientific delegate and director. I have rarely met such knowledgeable and dedicated professionals. It struck me how grateful they all showed themselves toward the Patrons Office and the support that comes to the Museums from them. These people understand the importance of the patrimony of art and culture entrusted to their care. Hence they value accordingly the financial commitment of the patrons, who make so much of their task possible.

DSC_3612And of course there was Fr. Mark himself. On January 11th,  I found myself looking forward to six months to shadow him and observe the day to day tasks of the position. I can only describe both his work and the many faceted and demanding duties of those who daily serve in the office as a non – stop whirlwind of activities. People kept asking me if had settled in; “settle” was definitely not the right metaphor. I had landed on a treadmill at top speed. I have to say it was rather exciting. We had trips to London, then to parts of the United States. We had visits from five of the chapters all in one month, two of them from Asia, making their first trip as a chapter. We had the inauguration of two major galleries and the launching of an exhibit curaDSC_3632ted by our office staff. Then there were the visits: everyone wanted to get a last encounter with Father Mark, and they wanted to meet me. I began to get nervous, because I could see how expert he had become in his nearly nine years with the Patrons. He held meetings, dealt with restoration projects, planned events, got things done in the Vatican (which is an art unto itself), presented new projects to potential donors, not to mention the ministerial activities in his free times to nourish his priestly heart. I knew I could never be him, and I wondered what expectations I was going to have to fill. But the wonderful people around me kept reminding me to “simply be myself.” Each one of us, they said, brings his or her own gift.

FOTO DIGITALEIt has been an extremely intense six months. I have met so many wonderful people, and I look forward to meeting so many more. The Patrons themselves are all so dedicated to the cause of helping preserve the treasures of the Vatican Museums for generations to come. I marvel at their love for the arts and culture, and their desire for as many as possible to share in the experience. I am so grateful for them all.

I look forward to doing my own part to carry on the great tradition begun by the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums. I have learned that, as in every organization, effective communication is always a challenge, as is maintaining the clarity of vision and focus on the core mission needed to ensure a sustainable growth. I am greatly looking forward to working with the Chapter Leaders of the twenty-seven chapters spread throughout the world to continue the success of the Patrons. And I implore God’s blessing upon us and our loved ones. May our efforts to preserve the artistic patrimony of the Vatican be a beacon for understanding among cultures, and hence a real catalyst for peace and true progress for the human spirit.

Father Daniel Hennessy, L.C.