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

http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2016/12/24/vatican_museums_restorers_save_artwork_in_italy%E2%80%99s_quake_zone/1281339

INAUGURATION OF THE BRACCIO NUOVO

braccio nuovo

INAUGURATION OF THE BRACCIO NUOVO

Wednesday Dicember 21st, 2016 |  5:30PM
BRACCIO NUOVO, VATICAN MUSEUMS
Free Entrance from Viale Vaticano showing the invitation
Starting from 5:00PM until 6:00PM
 RSVP eventi.musei@scv.va

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

Mosaics_in_the_Braccio_Nuovo1
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.

 

PROJECT REPORT: BERNINI ANGELS

PREPARATORY MODELS FOR THE BRONZE FIGURES OF THE CHAIR OF ST. PETER

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.

DSC_3869
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.

DSC_3872
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).

DSC_3878

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.”

DSC_3883

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

DSC_3865

Restoration


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.

DSC_3880
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.