Perseus Unveiled: The Northwest Chapter and Their Hero

This April, our friends from the lush Northwest U.S. came to visit and had an experience they will never forget. The beautiful springtime of Rome was the perfect backdrop for the unveiling of Perseus and a spiritual and cultural connection that can only be found here in the Vatican.

Also, while they were here, the NW Chapter members were also able to witness the fruits of their donations. Together we celebrated the unveiling of a spectacular Perseus statue, which their support helped restore. Vatican Museums director Antonio Paolucci thanked the Northwest Chapter in the Octagonal Courtyard saying that, “ The Northwest is a new chapter, but a very lively one.” And he praised their devotion to the Perseus.

The statue is a particularly glorious piece made by one of the masters of Italian sculpture, Antonio Canova. In the late 18th and early 19th century Canova became well known as the finest sculptor of his generation. His ability and talents, particularly in rendering the human form, were unparalleled by any contemporary.

Perseus Unveiled, photo by Gabe Hanzeli.

This Perseus is the epitome of his Neoclassical style that looked to antiquity for inspiration. The statue was purchased soon after its creation by Pope Pius VII Chiaramonti (1800-1823) who displayed it on the pedestal in place of the Apollo of the Belvedere which had been taken to France following the Treaty of Tolentino. It had similar weight, proportions and expressive characteristics of the statue of the famous Belvedere Apollo (itself an inspiration for Michelangelo and so many sculptors, including Canova).

There is an ironic artistic witticism hidden in this piece that goes along with Canova’s desire to take subjects of antiquity and cast a more modern spin on the subject matter. In this case, the story of the demi-god Perseus is that he avoided being turned to stone by chopping off the head of the Gorgon, Medusa. However, here he appears cast in stone as though his trial came to a less positive end. This is a conscious act of Canova who challenges antiquity with his cleverness and skill.

When the Apollo was returned to the Vatican, Perseus took up residence in a new place between statues of Two Pugilists (also by Canova), perhaps as a nod to a man who fought valiantly in the annals of Greek mythology.


(And for a glimpse into life inside the restoration with Andrea Felice, see this video!)

Perseus, Northwest Chapter from Vatican Patrons of the Arts on Vimeo.


The meticulous and painstaking restorations took over three years to be fully completed. Guy Devreux, Head of the Museums’ Marble Restoration, explained that it was thanks to the patrons that it is possible for restorers to perform such “extraordinary work.” He went on to say that, “The fact that the restoration takes a long time isn’t because it’s going slowly, but our respect, love and professionality that wants to make sure the final result is great.” Today, the true beauty of the piece could be restored and maintained for the future. We are so grateful to the Northwest Chapter and the Altig family for all their help and very pleased that so many of their representatives could be here to witness the unveiling.

Ask the Northwest Patrons who were in attendance or take a look at some of our pictures on our Facebook group and Snapfish album– to see just how amazing of an experience this was. We hope to see you soon and to let you see just how glorious the Perseus is in person!

The Northwest Chapter in front of Perseus and the Pugilists. Photo by Gabe Hanzeli

The Northwest Chapter in front of Perseus and the Pugilists. Photo by Gabe Hanzeli.

In the Swiss Guard Barracks after their training. Photo by Gabe Hanzeli.

In the Swiss Guard Barracks after their training. Photo by Gabe Hanzeli.

Guy Devreux, Head of the Museums’ Marble Restoration and Restorer of the project, Andrea Felice.

The artwork ‘Perseus with the Head of Medusa' by Italian sculptor Antonio Canova (1757-1822) is exhibited after restoration at the Vatican Museum, in Vatican City, April 30, 2015. ANGELO CARCONI

The artwork ‘Perseus with the Head of Medusa’ by Italian sculptor Antonio Canova (1757-1822) is exhibited after restoration at the Vatican Museum, in Vatican City, April 30, 2015. ANGELO CARCONI

In front of the Perseus in the Octagonal Courtyard. From L to R: Lisa Altig, Andrea Felice, Antonio Paolucci, and Rick Altig.

In front of the Perseus in the Octagonal Courtyard. From L to R: Lisa Altig, Andrea Felice, Antonio Paolucci, and Rick Altig.

The Curse of Mummy-Mania: Patrons Help Unravel a Mystery Wrapped in an Enigma

Mummy Mania is not exactly a scientific term – but it accurately describes the Egyptian history craze that swept Europe after the discovery of the Rosetta Stone in 1799 (which allowed for the translation of Hieroglyphics). In the rush to supply the Egypt-a-philic art collectors and museums that popped up on the continent, tombs were ransacked and ruins were exploited. Tourists swarmed the pyramids and every visitor to Egypt wanted to come home with a genuine mummy – correspondingly, there was a booming market for forgeries.

Napoleon in Egypt Studying a Mummy, Print by E. Fiorello

Napoleon in Egypt Studying a Mummy, Print by E. Fiorello

Forgeries of mummies are nothing new – researchers say that there were faux mummies even in the time of the Pharaohs and even more when high demand when during the Middle Ages through the Renaissance they were ground up used as a powder for apothecary potions. Often smaller mummies – “mummiettes” (child or animal mummies) made the best fakes, which held, deep underneath ancient bandages, contemporary bird bones or sometimes nothing at all.

Examples of apothecary potions

Examples of apothecary potions

Two of these fake mummies were the objects of study at the most recent Vatican restorers conference held on January 22, 2015. Professor Antonio Paolucci, director of the Vatican Museums, provided an introduction and Alessia Amenta, curator of the Department of Egyptian Antiquities and the Near East followed up with analysis along with Ulderico Santamaria, head of the Laboratory of Diagnostic for the Conservation and Restoration of the Vatican Museums with his colleagues Fabio Morresi and SvevaLongo. In the curious cases of these mummies, the forgeries and techniques used to discover them were just as interesting as if they found the real things.

A Case of "Mummy-Mania" Conference including speakers: Fabio Morresi, Alessia Amenta, Antonio Paolucci, Ulderico Santamaria, and Svevo Longo (from left to right)

A Case of “Mummy-Mania” Conference including speakers: Fabio Morresi, Alessia Amenta, Antonio Paolucci, Ulderico Santamaria, and Svevo Longo (from left to right)

Thanks to the California patrons who supported this project, (particularly Juliann and Michael O’Connor) our labs were able to use X-ray fluorescence and electron microscopes to discover the chemical elements of materials, and infrared and ultraviolet analyses revealed colors and images hidden to the naked eye. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry identified the presence of organic compounds and the project was topped off with CT-scans to create 3D images of the contents.  These analyses revealed the presence of zinc and tin in the paints and a metal laminate used to create false aging. Then “multiplanar reconstruction” of hundreds of CT-scan images pieced together revealed a 19th century nail that could not have been seen on the initial X-ray. Also, with carbon dating, restorers found that the bones wrapped inside were actually adult bones from the middle ages.

Fig. 3

Fake Mummy Undergoing “TAC” restoration © Musei Vaticani

The way these forgeries were crafted has been at least as much of a mystery as the riddle of true ancient Mummies. The conference on January 22, 2015 not only revealed strides in how to identify fakes, but also sparked discussion on the merit of these forgeries as works of historical record and even pieces of genuine 19th century artistic ingenuity.

“The Mummy Project” is an ongoing one at the Vatican which boasts a truly impressive collection of genuine mummies some of which have had the benefit of restoration due to our generous patrons.

For more on the Mummy Mania conference: http://mv.vatican.va/3_EN/pages/z-Info/MV_Info_Conferenze.html

For more on becoming a Vatican Museums Patron

Photo of Child Mummy Before Restoration © Vatican Museums

Photo of Child Mummy Before Restoration © Vatican Museums

Fake Mummy, Inv. 5783 © Musei Vaticani

Fake Mummy, Inv. 5783, before restoration © Musei Vaticani

The Sistine Chapel Twenty Years Later: New Breath, New Light

A two day conference marking the 20thanniversary of the restoration of Michelangelo’s frescos in the Sistine Chapel opened on Thursday October 30th in Rome.

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With the new lights and proposed new air conditioning system, the Sistine Chapel is at the forefront of everyone’s mind.  Now 450 years after the death of Michelangelo and 20 after the conclusion of the famous restoration in 1994, the Vatican Museums honor this double anniversary with a symposium.

The long-awaited event, will consist of two days of intense work and studies of the health of Michelangelo’s frescoes and their future conservation. Registration for the conference is closed – but surely we will learn a great deal from the symposium to share with our Patrons.

The conference began at 10 AM  when his Eminence Cardinal Bertello greeted all participants. This was followed by a talk led by Vatican Museums Director Antonio Paolucci.

Friend of the Patrons, Dr. Arnold Nesselrath,  Managing Director for the Science Departments and the Laboratories of the Vatican Museums will also present on “The Reason to Restore” and “How do we Illuminate Michelangelo?: The Philosophy of the Project.”

We’re excited about the coming together of all these innovative minds in the world of restoration as well as the focus on the Sistine Chapel. More images and insights to come… Check out this link to the Vatican Museums website for more information.

Conference on Sistine Chapel Lighting

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The Vatican Gardens: Restoring the Apollo

You never know where helpful hints will come from in the world of restoration.  When Mr. and Mrs. Hazelwood of Tennessee dropped by to check out the work that’s being performed on the Apollo section of the Vatican Gardens they’ve adopted in honor the memory of their daughter and niece, they were able to talk to the restorers about the new techniques they are using to keep the statuary clear of moss and other biological material that affects the stone masterpieces. The restoration of this section is part of a pilot project that will flower into a strategy of conservation for all the statuary in the gardens.

As one aspect of this, restorers just began testing a new restoration technique adopted from the invention of a farmer in Iowa. And it was a Patron that suggested it! The homeopathic agent, an American product known as “Moss Buster”, is cleaner and less abrasive than the biocides that restorers used in the past to clean the outdoor statues.  Also it is more effective – with the cleaning lasting much longer than ever before. Previously, even with modern chemicals, staining moss would return in just a couple months. The Moss Buster kills what is on the surface and restorers then perform a further removal with a gel product that is spread over the surface. When the gel hardens, they peel it off leaving a clean statuary underneath.   Director of the Vatican Museums Restoration Laboratory for Stone, Guy Devreux, calls Moss Buster  “a huge help in the atmosphere in the gardens.” After the peel, restorers have begun applying essential oil of oregano, a final protective measure that keeps the statue clean and prevents it from yellowing. A chemical peel and essential oil rub-down? Sounds like a nice day at the spa.

Thanks to our patrons, an Iowa farmer, and Moss Buster, our statues are restored to their natural beauty and can be more easily maintained. The Hazelwoods were so glad to hear that their patronage went toward this important innovation in outdoor restoration and so are we! It means that supporting the gardens is even easier and donations go further. Adopting a section of the gardens is a particularly rewarding experience as it connects the natural and man made worlds with the history and spirituality of the Vatican.  It is rewarding to see the continual growth and beauty in that counterbalance. Something truly delightful to share with all our visitors.

This Wednesday, Director of the Vatican Museums, Antonio Paolucci visited the gardens to oversee the progress and talk to restorers and curators.  He was amazed at the results of the restoration and was happily surprised to hear that the Patrons were critical in revealing a new technique. The collaboration of the Patrons in restoration always uncovers surprises!

If you would like to adopt part of the Vatican Gardens see our WISHBOOK 2015 Projects online, here: http://www.vatican-patrons.org/restorations/restoration-needs

Our Patrons from Tennessee, the Hazelwoods, with restorers in front of their adopted "Apollo" Section.

Our Patrons from Tennessee, the Hazelwoods, with restorers in front of their adopted “Apollo” Section.

Detail of Restoration Work

Detail of Restoration Work

 

Guy Devreaux the Director of the Vatican Museums Restoration Lab for Stone Artifacts and Father Mark Haydu with our IL Patrons during their Chapter Visit

Guy Devreaux the Director of the Vatican Museums Restoration Lab for Stone Artifacts and Father Mark Haydu with our IL Patrons during their Chapter Visit

Restorer with the Apollo Statue

Restorer with the Apollo Statue

Director of the Vatican Museums, Antonio Paolucci, Visiting the Project

Director of the Vatican Museums, Antonio Paolucci, Visiting the Project

 

Ohio Chapter’s Restoration of the First Popemobile

Traditionally, when a pope wanted to travel, he was carried in the sedia gestaoria: a chair carried on the shoulders of a number of papal attendants. Transportation at the time was such that the Pope rarely could leave the hallowed halls of Vatican City. However, in the  mechanized age, Papal transportation began to be more modernized. in 1930, during the priestly jubilee of Pius XI (1922-1939) a special automobile arrived. Pius XI’s actually received a few cars, but possibly the most remarkable was a Graham Paige limousine given to him by the Graham brothers from America (members of the Knights of Columbus – he also had a prestigious Citroën “Lictoria” made in Milan, and a Nurburg style Mercedes Benz).

The limousine was presented in the Vatican on November 9, 1929. Carriage-work was made by the famous American coachbuilder, LeBaron and the sumtuous upholstery was in silk of Havana brown and silver, with the metal accents in gold. Recently, due to the efforts of the Ohio Chapter, the car was restored and now resides in the Vatican Carriage Museum. It remains one of the most fascinating exhibits there.

Today, when we picture the Popemobile, it’s the Mercedes with the bulletproof glass.  Since an assassination attempt on then-Pope John Paul II in 1981, the head of the Roman Catholic Church has customarily used the custom-made glass-sided Popemobile when in public. But Pope Francis told a Spanish newspaper that he prefers not to use a bulletproof Popemobile despite the dangers of an assassination attempt because it walls him off from people.

Link to Pope Francis’s Popemobile interview

“It’s true that anything could happen, but let’s face it, at my age I don’t have much to lose,” he told Barcelona newspaper La Vanguardia in an interview published Friday and reported on in English by Vatican Radio. “I know that something could happen to me, but it’s in the hands of God.”

Never been to the Carriage Museum? That’s because it’s been a bit difficult to find inside the Vatican – and that’s a shame, because it houses some wonderful pieces. Help us bring more traffic to the Carriage Pavilion – with your help we can create a new modern entrance that attracts visitors and befits the grandeur of the exhibits – be a Popemobile patron! http://www.vatican-patrons.org/new-entrance-of-the-carriages-museum-2205

See the classic car (and much more) at the Carriage Museum. It’s not to be missed.

Dr. Sandro Barbagallo, Assistant Director of the Vatican Museums, with the Graham Paige Limo.

Dr. Sandro Barbagallo, Assistant Director of the Vatican Museums, with the Graham Paige Limo.

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Proposed plans for the new Carriages Museum Entrance in our 2015 WISHBOOK.

Proposed plans for the new Carriages Museum Entrance in our 2015 WISHBOOK.

Illinois Patrons during their Chapter Visit in the Carriage Museum with Vatican Museums Director Antonio Paolucci

Illinois Patrons during their Chapter Visit in the Carriage Museum with Vatican Museums Director Antonio Paolucci

Glorious Globes: Two 17th Century Painted Globes

Two Globes crafted by G.J. Blaeu (1571-1638) were transferred in the Paper Restoration Lab in 2008 to be painstakingly restored.  One is the globe of the earth while the other shows the 48 constellations as cited by Ptolemy. The two papier-mâché globes are covered in painted incised paper. See the pictures of the process needed to restore them here.

Blaeu was a student of famous astronomer Tycho Brahe, and made the artistry of globes and maps his whole life.  In 1599, he founded a printing press dedicated to the manufacturing of globes,  as well as nautical and scientific instruments. In 1625, he founded the Blaviana Office in Amsterdam, the official map maker for the Indian Company. His most famous work is the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum sive Atlas Novus, published in two volumes in 1635 was reprinted many times until 1655. One interesting facet of the pieces, two globes were continually “updated” with copper as new discoveries were made.

In the Diagnostic Lab, the globes was analyzed through reflectography, photographic documentation with UV fluorescence, analysis of the pigments and stratigraphic analysis.  Restorers studied the components order to define typology and to identify the process and technique with which it was assembled. There are few documents about these globes, so they had to collecting information on other similar globes located in Museums in Bologna and Florence in order to track down the history of these beautiful works of art. Thank you to our California Chapter for helping us to keep preserve treasures like these.

Antonio Paolucci, Director of the Vatican Museums, in the restoration labs with the Blaeu Globes

Antonio Paolucci, Director of the Vatican Museums, in the restoration labs with the Blaeu Globes