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 of 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.