Four Shields from the illustrious Collection of Fr. Kirschbaum SJ


Inventory Number: 100408, 100409, 100424, 100433FOTO DIGITALEFOTO DIGITALE

These four sculpted and painted wooden shields  belong to the illustrious  Kirschbaum collection.
They are one of the products of Verbese missionary Father F. Kirschbaum’s enduring work in the Sepik zone. They were initially kept close to Kirschbaum’s residence at Marienberg, but were later sent to Rome to enhance the collection of artifacts from Oceania, conserved at the Lateran Museum, and afterwards displayed in the Ethnological Museum of the Vatican Museums. According to the reports of Father F. Kirschbaum, which are conserved in the Historical Archive of the Museum, these objects were used for decoration in the house of the spirits, the Tambaran. Kirschbaum describes how these pieces were used in rituals such as the “singsing” dance, also called átei. This dance invoked Áto, the god of war, to hold back the enemies and lessen their power. The tables are rectangular, fashioned from a single wooden log and sculpted and painted on the front. On the upper part of each table is sculpted, in high relief, a face below a disk and the head of a bird. The rest of the surface is decorated by designs stylized with white, red, and black pigments. Currently the Ethnological Museum is under renovation, but it is expected that these pieces will return on display in the near future.
The first Tambaran of this group (originally made of five) was restored last year thanks to the generosity of the Franciscan University of Steubenville (Ohio) and the Corporate Travel Michigan Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums.

Gold leaf jewelry with Repoussé Decoration



Inventory Number: 20541; 20542; 20589-20599, 22214-22215, 20578-20588; 20200, 20478, 20531-20536 (fragments); 20537, 20538 (2 necklaces in gilded silver); 20474 (missing fragments for a necklace)

The Regolini-Galassi Tomb, located in the necropolis of Sorbo in Cerveteri, takes its name from its two discoverers, the archpriest Alessandro Regolini and General Vincenzo Galassi who received a special permission for excavation from the Papal Government in 1836. It is one of the richest and most representative Etruscan tombs ever discovered, dated between 675 and 650 B.C. Immediately after its discovery, all objects found in the tomb were purchased for the Gregorian Etruscan Museum, where they have been exhibited for almost two centuries. The tomb is a unique testimony of the “Orientalizing” period, a cultural phenomenon that spanned the entire Mediterranean basin, and Etruria, with the circulation of goods and extensive knowledge from Egypt and the Near East being spread thanks to the activity of Phoenician and Greek navigators.

The architecture of the tomb, which is still visible in Cerveteri, was carved into the volcanic rock (tufo in Italian) and partially built with stone blocks. It was then covered by an impressive mound. The tomb consists of a hall with two elliptical side cells and a lower chamber, separated by a wall with a triangular window. At least two people of royal blood were buried inside: a cremated individual in the room on the right and a woman buried in the chamber. The latter lies on a low bed and is accompanied by a rich collection con- sisting of personal jewelry of refined workmanship, pottery, and silvered bronze. Part of this collection included a costly array of objects, worthy of kings and queens, of which only the gold foil remains. All are decorated with embossed geometric patterns (meanders, circles, rosettes) or showing a figurative “orientalizing” repertoire (a winged woman, the head of the goddess Hathor, a lion). Originally they must have numbered several hundred.

Today, there are 489 of those works intact, to which must be added countless fragments. This project intends to address the restoration of the decorated foil pieces and the two necklaces in gilded silver, all currently exhibited in room II of the Gregorian Etruscan Museum.

Rare Crown of the Dance


Inventory Number: AS 8931 A, AS 8931 B

This kind of crown was worn by women during a traditional dance festival  in Thailand. The decorative elements found on this artifact, such as flaming wings and flowers, create the legendary figure Kinnara, a protective and benevolent figure who is half human and half bird. People would come into various temples where they would find this object, and place offerings for divinity inside it. Antique examples of this kind of delicate manufacturing of lacquer are extremely rare. The preciousness of the design of this object signifies its use by people of high rank. The crown is made from wood, dressed with paper, and/or leather, black lacquer, and decorative geometric motifs using mirrors and a relief technique.
The inside of the base of the crown is built with a circular wooden structure. Small sticks have been applied to this structure and they in turn support the soft metal pieces which act as decorative elements. All of the decorative elements of this object are highly refined and many of the decorations protrude from the base supported by metal elements. The offertory part of the object has similar characteristics to the crown. The top part of the object is done in red lacquer.

Tapestry of Diana by Le Gobelins

Manifattura GOBELINS; cart.: PERROT, Pierre-Josse (attivo 1724 - 1735) - CAZES, Pierre-Jacques (1676 - 1754) - DESPORTES, Alexandre (Champigneulles 1661 - Paris 1743); arazz.: de LA TOUR, Louis-Ovis; Portiera in arazzo: Diana (allegoria della Caccia); lana e seta; cartone: 1727; arazzo: 1728 c.; Palazzo Apostolico Lateranense; Appartamento Pontificio

Inventory Number: 43808

The tapestry of Diana was woven between 1728 and 1740 based on the design of Pierre-Josse Perrot. In this genre of tapestries, Roman gods were frequently included as allegorical representations of the seasons and elements. The first of these tapestries were woven at Gobelins in 1700 and were based on designs prepared in 1699-1703 by the ornamental design painter Claude III Audran and his collabora- tors. They later continued to be replicated for a good part of the 18th Century up until the outbreak of the revolution. The cycle contains eight scenes dedicated to eight pagan divinities meant to personify the seasons (Venus-Spring, Ceres-Summer, Bac- chus-Autumn, Saturn-Winter) and the elements (Diana-Earth, Juno-Air, Jupiter-Fire, Neptune-Water). The various subjects of the tapestries were replicated countless ti- mes between 1700 and 1789 in compliance with a sizeable request from the French court as well as commissions from other European buyers. 237 tapestries created in various Gobelins workshops during the 18th Century have been documented. The Vatican tapestry must have been created in the workshop of Luis-Ovis De La Tour circa 1734 or in the workshop of Audran and Monmerquè sometime between 1734 and 1740. This particular piece was woven based on a novel design by Pierre-Josse Perrot that is starkly different from his previous artwork. In August of 1748 the Duke of Nivernois received four tapestries of Diana upon his departure to Rome. The Va- tican tapestry most likely is one of these. Considering that the Roman deities Juno, Cybele, and Pluto were most often associated with the earth cult, it is uncommon to see Diana personify this element. Here, the presence of Diana transforms this scene into a celebration of the hunt, which was a popular pastime of the nobility during the time period. Meanwhile in the other versions, the goddess of the hunt is featured in the center of the tapestry, seated on a cloud with her legs turned towards the left. She is easily recognizable by the bow she holds in her hand. In the tapestries woven from the designs of Perrot, Diana typically appears in a central roundel, surrounded by three female figures who carry her trademarks: dogs and a quiver. The lower zone contains two female figures at the sides that hold the other two attributes of the goddess. Between them there is a hunting trophy consisting of a deer head and weapons, beneath which are two dogs. The central scene is surrounded by a precious and fragile architectural structure that is decisively not classical. There is a sort of pavilion that accommodates, from the base to the top, decorative elements including animals, garlands, and other objects. At the four sides the French lily is present. This piece is expected to be returned on display in the Room of Solomon in St. John in Lateran of the Lateran Palace.

Sacred Buddhist Scroll



Inventory Number: 110022

The thang-ka is a large portable canvas and depicts the sacred in Tibet Buddhism. It was stored in the monestaries, rolled, and was only brought out for particular ceremonies. The work that needs restoration is part of a large and important series of tibetan thang-ka in the ethnological museum of the Vatican Museums.

The painting was created with tempera on canvas. One very thin preparatory layer was inserted into a mount with blue silk and patterned dragon medallions. The central figure represents Tara Verde encircled by 1000 Buddha. Tara is a symbol of wisdom and incarnation of mercy and exists in many kinds of manifestations. Tara is a diety that is extremely venerated in the environment of the pantheon buddhusta as the one who puts an end to suffering. Tara Verde, Utpala, is usually represented with a rosary or a book while guiding the faithful across the ocean of existence. Three silk veils, affixed on the length side of the upper edge of the blue satin, were used when it was necessary to cover the painted window. The work of art is lined with a red-brown cotton cloth, decorated with various sized pieces sewn on. There are two long supports on the top and bottom of the object used to suspend it.

5 Drawings from early Christian frescoes


Inv 69862

Inventory Number: 69862 – 69854 – 69883 – 69876 – 69863

The Pius Christian Museum houses an important series of copies of catacomb pictures commissioned by Father Giuseppe Marchi in the middle of the 19th Century. During this time, the preparation and creation of a new Christian Antiquities Museum was underway. This was done at the request of Pope Pius IX, and for this reason, the Pius Christian Museum was dedicated in his name. Father Marchi, remembering the antique reproductions of the frescoes from the Roman catacombs by Antonio Bosio in the “Roma Sotterranea” (1632), highlighted the importance of these new “exact copies” that the Holy Father (Pius IX) requested of the early Christian cemeteries. These never-before-seen pictures are likely more significant than the very first copies by Bosio, and no one after him took the care to preserve them.
The subjects selected by Marchi display more variety and showcase interesting examples of Roman cemetery pictures because of the iconographic aspects and the monumental size of each decoration. Many of these pictures were just discovered in those years thanks to the excavations conducted by the Pontifical Commission of Sacred Archaeology, and the work of the famed archaeologist Giovanni Battista de Rossi: student of Marchi and true founder of the modern science of Christian archaeology.
Previously on display in the Lateran Museum, this gallery moved to the Vatican at the request of Pope John XXIII (1963). After the move, the copies were placed in storage and forgotten. Recently, three pieces were rediscovered and placed back on exhibition in the Pius Christian Museum, in the grand hall near the “dogmatic sarcophagus”. Thanks to the generosity of the California Chapter of the Patrons of the Arts, a large number of these drawing have already been cleaned. However, these last five pieces are in precarious condition and in need of intervention.



Touching Art Interactive Educational Displays


The Pio Christian Museum houses the most important collection of Early Christian sculpture in the world. To allow everyone to experience the collection, even the blind and visually impaired, the curators have designed a special tactile desplay that provides resin casts of five chosen works, accompanied by an explaination.
The individual casts will be displayed on stands next to the original works, in a way that highlights the new potential enjoyment of the space without interfering with the traditional museum display. The structure of the metal base, with no sharp edges or corners, is designed to meet the needs of the blind, and visually and physically impaired. These displays provide a complete experience that pairs. the specially designed text in the information panel (in Italian/English Relief and Braille) with simultaneous tactile exploration of the work us- ing the cast.

Detailed Description of the Project

The display structure will meet the needs of the blind and visually impaired in several ways. It will be constructed of metal, free from any sharp edges, and coated with a RILSAN system that provides cushioning in case of impact. The continuity between the relief image and display panel will make it easy for the visitors to explore and understand the works. The structure will be positioned at a height that will allow the blind and disabled to reach the panels easily and the mold will be directly porportional to the original work. We would like to establish this system for five different works.

The text only touch panels intended for museum display fuction by removing all barriers between the visitor and the sense of touch. In accordance with DPR 503, they will be constructed of a sixty by forty centimeter acrylic block with reinforced aluminium backing. They will be painted and the characters will appear in normal magnified relief (for tactile reading) and embossed Braille characters. Both the relief and Braille texts will be printed in colors that contrast with the back- gound, likely blue or another color with a luminescene at least forty percent greater than that of the background. This is to provide a suitable reading surface for visitors with impaired color perception. The relief text will be capitalized in a Sans Serif font to provide easy reading for the blind and visually impaired. The Braille text will be inserted into the rear panel with rounded edg- es, to avoid irritation of the fingertips.


Under the surface: Dual Energy Computed Axial Tomography

sarcofago Low Res!


A modern approach to diagnostic art restoration allows non-destructive techniques that do not alter the works of art that are analyzed. For this reason, X-rays are widely used and, in recent years, computerized axial tomography, better known as CT, has come to be a key resource in the diagnostic art restoration process.

This technique allows researchers to analyze the artifacts with a three-dimensional reconstruction, providing high spatial resolution and a very high resolution in density. The technology of three-dimensional reconstruction has been widely used for the study of artifacts of historical and artistic value. In the Vatican Museum’s case, however, researchers have made use of a new type of medical CT, which is based on the principle of Dual Energy. The operation is similar because it scans the same structure, but with two X-ray tubes simultaneously with different voltage. The information the researchers receive from the dual-energy X-ray is compared with a known density, such as water and iodine, and in this way provides information about the inner structure of the object with respect to a monoenergetic object.

Recently, two small mummies and an Egyptian sarcophagus from the necropolis of Luxor (800 BC) were scanned. The dual-energy CT made it possible to not only investigate the interior of the two mummiettes, but also to create three-dimensional models to be dissected and investigated from every point of view. Through this process, a thin tin foil in the grout of the face, which would normally have been impossible to detect, was discovered. The discovery of the lamina revealed both mummies to be false historical artifacts, likely from the 19th Century. The dual-energy CT scan of the sarcophagus provided a great deal of  evidence supporting the argument that the cover is composed of material reuse. The CT scan is capable of showing the  assembly technique of the layers, but is also able to separate the different layers through densitometric measurement of materials (wood and stucco), using filters already set for medical use. Through this intensive process, researchers have learned some very useful and innovative techniques for the study of important historical and artistic artifacts.

The aim of this project is to gain access to this capability of dual-energy CT in order to differentiate the various densities of materials in order to study in detail the assembly and polychrome paint film of any work. With the help of this tool, researchers will be able to distinguish each pigment according to its densitometric characteristics, and then will be able to dissect the paint film by identifying the precise location of the pigmented layer on it. Today, no laboratory instrument has this capability, so obtaining this tool will be extremely beneficial to the work of the Vatican Museums restoration teams.

New Entrance and Exhibition Hall of the Carriage Museum

    Presentazione Ingresso Musei Vaticani_Pagina_08 Presentazione Ingresso Musei Vaticani_Pagina_07Last year the Pavilion of the Carriages underwent a dramatic transformation thanks to the direction of its new curator. This exhibition, which was inaugurated on April 19, 1973 by Paul VI, has grown over the years and now holds an enlarged, beautified, and enriched collection. It now features a lighting system with the latest LED technology and an enhanced exhibition that utilizes revised educational methods.

Presentazione Ingresso Musei Vaticani_Pagina_12

This renovation was performed in order to properly conserve the pieces that make up the extraordinary collection of Catholic heritage housed within the pavilion. The project was also inspired by the desire to share these pieces with the world, reaching the heart of every visitor, expert and novice alike, without elitist digressions or useless technicalities. In the past, the magnificent Berlina di Gran Gala, constructed in Rome in 1826 by Leone XII, stood as the focal point of the Pavilion of the Carriages alongside the new ceremonial carriages that belonged to the Popes, or the Princes, of the Holy Roman Church. Later, some large paintings were added to the collection; these depict the papacy’s mobility throughout history as the Church’s seat of power moved to a number of different locations. A series of splendid marble and bronze busts depicting the pontiffs from Pius VI through Saint John Paul II were also installed, corresponding with the vehicles on display. The Pavilion of the Carriages collection also contains sedan chairs and the splendid court vestments of lay dignitaries who accompanied the Popes during their voyages. Until recently, only the Graham Paige 837 from 1929, the Citroën Lictoria C6 from 1930, the Mercedes 460 Nürburg limousine designed by Ferdinand Porsche, one Mercedes 300 Sel, and three Popemobiles (Land Rover, Toyota and Mercedes 230 GE) belonged to the popemobile section. In the last two years, the Fiat Campagnola linked to the 1981 assassination attempt of Pope John Paul II in the Piazza San Pietro, the last Maggiolino produced by Volkswagen in Mexico in 2003, and a Renault 4 given to Papa Francesco in 2012 were added to the small automobile fleet of the Vatican Museums.

Presentazione Ingresso Musei Vaticani_Pagina_10In order to enhance the entrance to the Pavilion of the Carriages, the construction of a covering structure and a wide elevator has been proposed. The entrance to the Pavilion of the Carriages is situated entirely outdoors and, thus, exposed to the elements. The only way to access it is by descending four flights of stairs, which poses extreme difficulty to handicapped persons. We hope to remedy this problem by installing an ele- vator that would allow people to enter the exhibit without having to take the stairs. The proposed solution will require that the exhibition space be doubled in order to accommodate the new covering structure that will occupy part of the pre-existing flowerbed in the direction of the Gate of Gregory  XVI. A glass  window  structure  that will permit an unobscured view of the Vatican Gardens will span 475 square meters (totalling 29,80 m in length and 16,50 in width). The exhibition space will have an area of approximately 200 square meters and will serve as a space for temporary exhibits, conventions, and other events. To allow for the enlargement, it will be necessary to incorporate, into the new architectural arrangement, the cypress tree that currently grows in the adjacent flowerbed. The tall Mediterranean pines, however, will not be touched by the construction. To accentuate the formal dynamism of the flat covering, this zone one will be decentered and made asymmetric with the perimeter of the glass walls. The result will be two cornices and a platform along the principal façade and the left side, where entrances for the public will be opened. Two entrances will allow access to the stairs or the new room, and a third will lead directly to the rear.

Presentazione Ingresso Musei Vaticani_Pagina_13The layout of the trees of the Vatican Gardens, is mirrored in the steel shaft that will hold the elevator, furthering the  conceptual parallelism with the nature that penetrates the new architecture. This architectural element allows integral structural systems, such as pairs of round steel pillars, to be incorporated into the interior. These are meant to sustain the parallel beams set in place that support the entire extension, leaving the pillars unburdened. The paving in the internal space will be similar to historical travertine floors with the perimeter bordered in peperine and supported by the glass walls. Meanwhile, the interior false ceiling will be made of metal panels, where cutting-edge LED lights will be installed. Finally, it is important to note that the entire project design was conceived with the express intention of remaining faithful to the elegant austerity that this exhibition has always evoked

Dr. Sandro Barbagallo
After studying at the Special School of the Vatican Private Archives and earning his degree in History of Art from the University of Siena, Sandro Barbagallo participated in the creation of exhibitions and edited monographs focused on the art of Dutch and French Artists of the 19th Century, such as Matisse, Manet, and Bonard. He has worked with the Tribunal for Lost and Stolen Antiquities in Rome. Since 2008, he has written art criticism for the L’Osservatore Romano.  Barbagalo also serves as Vatican News Correspondant for Il Giornale dell’Arte. He has worked for the Direction of the Vatican Museums as Curator of the Historical Collections Department since 2012. In this roll he has overseen the upgrade of the Carriage Pavilion and the construction of the Portrait Gallery of the Popes in Castel Gondolfo. He is a member of the Scientific Committee of Roman Work for the Preservation of Faith and the Provision of New Churches, a committee formed to rethink the design of churches. In July 2015, he was named Scientific Advisor for the Redevelopment of the Museum of the Treasury at the Basilica of St. John Lateran.

Back to Basics: Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopic

Nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, most commonly known as NMR spectroscopy, is a research technique that exploits the magnetic properties of certain atomic nuclei. It determines the physical and chemical properties of atoms or the molecules in which they are contained. It relies on the phenomenon of nuclear magnetic resonance and can provide detailed information about the structure, dynamics, reaction state, and chemical environment of molecules. The NMR is an important tool to analyze many different kind of materials.

NMR_studio coloranti bisIt is possible to study chemical structure of organic materials, like proteinaceous binders and drying oils used to create a work of art, to understand and compare their native structure with their degradation mechanism. A common goal of these investigations is to obtain high resolution 3-dimensional structures of the protein, similar to what can be achieved by X-ray crystallography. NMR spectroscopy is often the only way to obtain high resolution information on partially or wholly intrinsically unstructured proteins. Another very interesting study that could be carried out with this instrument is the examination of natural dyes’s chemical structures in relation to their process of production or natural source.

NMR_studio colorantiThis is very important in study of tapestries, because natural dyes are very degradable materials that change their chemical structure. This instrument allow to study also archeological materials, like pottery artifacts; in fact, with the analysis of cooking temperature it’s possible to characterize different process and geographical areas of productions. The important of NMR spectroscopy is related to the range of information and the diversity of samples, including solutions and solids. The Agilent Techologies have developed a 400 MHz NMR Spectrometer that allow to study solid, liquid and semisolid material, used in a very large number of works of art present in Vatican Museums.