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.

A Major Patron Project: Notes on the Gregorian Profane Museum, its need of light, but also its modern architectural significance

Some Patrons’ projects are easier to sponsor than others;  “Bringing Light to the Ancient World” has been on our list for the past couple of years and while we have some interest from major foundations to sustain the high costs of new lighting, we are still working towards the official pledge.

Yet, even with its significance, how many of us have really looked at this department?  Not many, because it is closed to the public.  It represents one of the most phenomenal collections of classic Greek and Roman art in the world, known to scholars everywhere.  However, less known to the public is that it is also a major modernist architectural project for the Holy See, requested and sustained by Paul VI in his quest for a proper site for the collection.  The year was 1973 and Arch. Lucio Passarelli and his studio won the competition for the building, which now includes the Ethnological collections as well.  Using natural light, unusual apertures to the outside, stunning use of steel in the design of the mountings as well as reinforced concrete made to look like cut stone, the entire complex is typical of its time;  yet while typical, it was seen as the ultimate example as it won the CEA (Circle d’Etudes Architecturales) Prize in 1975.  See below a couple of vintage photos from the opening of the galleries that year.  For all Patrons:  let’s work together to light this collection and open it again to the public.  It is indeed one of the undisputed jewels of the Vatican Museums.

Fig 11

image1

Copia di Fig 12