Mary Angela Schroth & Holy Stairs 2014 U.S.A. Tour

As the restoration of the Holy Stairs sanctuary in Rome moves closer to completion, we have been glad to see the positive reaction of the media, art specialists, and Patrons towards the project, which was made possible by the generous support of the UK Chapter. Carol Glatz of CNS recently wrote, “Just like someone gently unwrapping a present, a restorer carefully peeled back a thin wet veil of paper from a black sooty wall to see what was hidden underneath. From behind the layers of grime and dirt emerged the frescoed images of a fallen Roman column, a flock of fluffy sheep and a pink sunset sky over a forgotten ancient city”. Restorers are currently completing the frescoes in the Chapel of San Lorenzo where the vaulting, which features the 8 most important doctors of the Church as well as host of angels, is now completed, and the restoration team is working its way to the portrait of St. Lorenzo.

Mary Angela Schroth, who has worked at the Holy Stairs for over 20 years, will be visiting a number of Chapters in the United States over the next month to share about the detailed process and incredible results of its restoration. Mary Angela will be in New York on July 29, Philadelphia on July 31, Washington DC on August 5, and Raleigh, North Carolina on August 13. We encourage any of our Patrons who are able to attend! Not only will you learn about the process of restoration, but you will also have  the opportunity to witness the truly significant impact the Patrons’ support has on bringing historic treasures back to life! If you are interested in attending one of these events, contact your Chapter Leader for further details.

Internship Reflection Article

Walking down the corridor in the Gallery of the Maps my first day as a Vatican Museum Restoration Intern was the perfect introduction to the world of art restoration. On my right, colorful map frescos, depicting the Italian landscape of the 1500s, radiated hues of blue, green, and gold. On my left, I saw maps slightly yellowed with age and distorted by cracks, as if some new rivulet had formed beside the Tiber River. It was evident that masterful hands had restored the aging works to their former luster. My short walk rendered me, a rising college senior looking to pursue a career in art restoration, extremely impressed. The Art Department at the University of Notre Dame gave me the opportunity to be here, and I was thrilled to begin working.

I then entered the Gallery’s scaffolding and was quickly tasked with helping the restorers consolidate the fresco. They taught me how to check for holes behind the wall by knocking on it with my hands. With my left hand placed against the fresco, fingers spread wide, my right hand knocked firmly, creating a vibration and low-pitched sound that signaled a hazardous hole lay behind the wall. To fill it, we created a gateway with a tiny hand drill, injected alcohol to clean the hole, and finally filled it with mortar using a syringe. I was surprised to be handling tools more common to a doctor or construction worker. However, using this unexpected combination of tools and techniques was a key step, along with cleaning and retouching, in bringing Ignazio Danti’s maps back to their original state.

Next, I put aside the syringe and mortar to observe the restoration of a small canvas painting of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane from 1648. Restorers Eugenio and Stefania took the canvas off of its frame and examined the damage from a previous restoration- an old patch attached to the canvas to fill a hole had left it warped. Additionally, the brown paint was cracked from age and old varnish left the image tinted a dark shade of yellow. Eugenio used glue to consolidate the cracks and then applied heat and suction to flatten it. We used scapulas to detach the old patch, and a mixture of ethanol and hydrox to remove the varnish. In just a matter of days, this almost four-hundred-year-old painting came back to life before my eyes.

Now most of my days are spent in the scaffolding of the Borgia Apartment, where a team of four restorers is working to clean the fifteenth-century ceilings painted by Pinturicchio and his team. Every morning, after exchanging cheek kisses and enjoyed the customary cup of espresso, I get started graphically recording the chips in the original paint using the computer program, AutoCad. This helps to document the restoration and also lets the restorers analyze patterns in paint chipping.

I will leave this experience in awe of the patience, reverence, and dedication constantly demonstrated by the Vatican’s restorers. Without them, these works of art might simply deteriorate and fade away. Thanks to The Patrons of the Arts and the restorer’s efforts, however, the Vatican Museums are able to keep these pieces alive and illuminate our world’s treasures for generations to come.

By Katie Flynn, University of Notre Dame Class of 2015

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Sala 1: One of the top 10 places to visit in Rome for free.

We are excited to share that Sala 1, a contemporary art gallery housed in the Pontifical Sanctuary of the Scala Santa in San Giovanni, was recently named by The Guardian as one of the top 10 places to visit in Rome for free. Opened in 1970, Sala 1 was one of the city’s first galleries to showcase experimental and contemporary art, architecture, performance, and music. Under the direction of Mary Angela Schroth, Sala 1 has thrived. Mary Angela has also played an essential role in the restoration of the Scala Santa, which was made possible by the generosity of the Patrons community. If you find yourself in Rome, be sure to visit the Scala Santa and Sala 1 !

Chiara Lorenzetti

Chiara serves the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums (PAVM) as Communications & Education Manager. She has duties pertaining to coordinating research, providing in-house expertise as a Webmaster and Graphic Designer, coordinating the Internship-Fellowship-Volunteering Program, and contributing as in-house editor, translator and writer for our office publications.

 

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Raphael Revelations: Restorer Paolo Violini’ discoveries in the Raphael Rooms

A recent study of the frescos by Renaissance master Raphael in the Vatican’s Stanze di Raffaello have revealed a great deal about the artist’s technical progress and maturation in this period.  In an article with Artemagazine, Paolo Violini, the Vatican Museums’ fresco restoration specialist, describes how the conservation of the Stanza di Eliodoro revealed evidence of Raphael’s evolution as a painter.  From 1508, when the artist began work on the Stanza della Segnatura, to 1514, when he completed the Stanza di Eliodoro, Raphael completely transformed his painting style. At the beginning of Raphael’s career, the influence of Perugino—picked up during his early training as the master’s apprentice in Umbria and Tuscany— was very apparent in his work.  Later on in his illustrious career, however, Raphael began to incorporate different techniques into his work as he was influenced by his contemporaries in Rome. Violini describes the artist’s transformation: “In addition to an increased attention to light, reflections, and prismatic color, Raphael begins to use intense explosions of color, which free his paintings from the traditional prescription of drawing and engraving. It gives a increasingly fluid picture, almost impressionistic.” It is incredible to know that our restoration projects sponsor not only the rejuvenation of important masterworks but also the uncovering of new scholarship in the field of Art History and fresh perspectives on methods, techniques, and influence of master artists. Now that Violini, thanks to these Patrons-sponsored restorations, has uncovered the material evidence of Raphael’s stylistic transformation, we look forward to future scholarship piecing together the story of this environment of artistic influence in the Vatican during the Renaissance. Who knows what another upcoming restoration, for example, the final Raphael Stanza to be restored— the artist’s final masterpiece, the Room of Constantine— might uncover about this fascinating topic! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Catholic Press Association Praises Meditations on Vatican Art

The Catholic Press Association recently announced its annual publication awards, praising Fr. Mark’s Meditations on Vatican Art as a “beautifully illustrated meditative retreat.” This authorial debut received first-place awards in the categories of Spirituality Hardcover and in Design and Production. The judges commended the book for its aesthetic elegance saying, “We were immediately drawn to the art on the jacket from Caravaggio’s masterpiece The Deposition of Christ. The page layouts are exceptional, as is the type used.” The judges also awarded Meditations on Vatican Art second place in the First-Time Authors’ category.  It is rare for one title to receive numerous awards, so it quite an accomplishment that Meditations on Vatican Art achieved three! Fr. Mark, who is hard at work on his second book, Meditations on Vatican Art: Angels, was excited to hear the news. “I am greatly humbled and honored by this enthusiastic response from the Catholic Press Association,” he commented. “It is my hope that many more people may come to know Christ by reflecting on the inspired art of the Vatican Museums.” Congratulations Fr. Mark!

Photo by Julie Filby/DCR