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
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.
Sculpture Restoration in the Braccio Nuovo
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.
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
Date: 2nd Century AD
Dimensions: 5,60 x 1.50 ; 5,60x 5,60
Inventory Number: 45766-45767
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 between 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.
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 1960s, 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.