May 10, 2016 – 5.30PM
CONFERENCE HALL – Vatican Museums
The restoration of one of the most famous, well-transited and breathtaking areas in the Vatican Museums – The Gallery of the Candelabras – will reach completion on Wednesday May 10th, 2016 at 5.30PM at the Conference Hall of the Vatican Museums. The project will be presented by Professor Antonio Paolucci – Director of the Vatican Museums, Doctor Micol Forti – Curator of the Collection of Modern Religious Art, Doctor Francesca Persegati – Head restorer of the project, and Father Mark Haydu L.C., – International Director of the Patrons of the Arts.
Originally an open air loggia built in 1761, the long hallway was walled at the end of the 18th century. The Gallery was redecorated by artists Ludovico Seitz, Domenico Torti, Annibale Angelini and students under Leo XIII between 1883 and 1887. The occasion that prompted the work was the commemoration of Leo XIII’s 50th anniversary of priestly ordination.
Subdivided in six monumental rooms separated by arches, the figurative panes in the center of the sides of the vault house works by Ludovico Seitz and Domenico Torti. The Galley is beautifully decorated in chiaroscuro and grisaille works sumptuously garnishing the walls and vaults. Chiaroscuro uses strong contrasts of light and dark and bold contrasts, while grisaille is a painting technique using gray tones as a base, and may be used as an under-painting for an oil painting with other colors. These techniques help make the images in the Gallery appear three dimensional and extremely particular.
The decorative ensemble is one of great fascination and elegance. Here, the humanistic element of rennaissance art still vibrant from the heralded papacy of Pope Leo X finds itself stylistically married to a new allegorical and innovative artistic approach.
The paintings of the central room by Ludovico Seitz are particularly beautiful with the background compositions featuring faux gold mosaic, elegant angelic figures and characteristically idealized views of the city of Rome. The internal decoration is a tempera painting on the wall.
For the past two years, a grand project has been under way in one of the most prominent galleries of the Vatican Museums. Now, in the Gallery of the Candelabra, that hard work has brought about the transformation beginning to show as three sections of the gallery are now completed thanks to the meticulous work of Francesca Persegati and her team of restorers.
The extent of the restoration was vast. It included preserving the secco painting on the ceiling of the Gallery of the Candelabra. Completed during the years of 1883-1888 by Annibale Angelini and Ludovico Seitz, the work has suffered major damage since its completion. Also, the gallery’s exposure to light had been one of the major problems of conservation; there are 18 huge windows that pour direct sunlight into the gallery. Another detrimental problem was the amount of visitors that walk through the gallery on their way to the Sistine Chapel – sometimes as many as 30,000 a day – who contributed to varied climate conditions and increased dirt and debris within the hall.
In order to restore and protect this masterpiece of the 19th century from further damage, Persegati and her team outlined some of the steps they took. As usual, one of the first things the restorers did was clean the work of art, sometimes experimenting with new techniques using makeup sponges. They also retouched the paint damage without using material which would stain the work.
Finally, two of the most essential elements to ensure future preservation were adapting the lighting and maintaining climate control within the gallery. A brand new lighting system was installed, and the gallery was isolated from infrared heating by placing special curtains in the windows.
The Gallery of the Candelabra was a challenging restoration, but the hard work of the restorers will not only benefit this portion of the Museums, but their innovative restoration techniques and discoveries will serve other galleries throughout the world.
This project would not be possible without the talent of Persegati and her team of restorers, the Scientific Labs of the Vatican Museums, and the generous donation of Ohio Chapter Patron, Mrs. Connie Frankino. We are very grateful for all their contributions which have made this masterful gallery sparkle.