Filling in the Gaps: Etruscan Vase Restoration with Behind the Scenes Video!

From the 7th to 4th Century B.C. the Etruscans produced volumes of expressive greek pottery making them the largest producer of such work outside of Greece. Amazingly, over 2500 years later we are still able to reconstruct these artistic treasures while preserving their narrative and respecting their age and importance.

In the restoration labs at the Vatican we are currently working on 17 precious Etruscan vases with restorations expected to be finished this May. There are a few intriguing aspects of these particular reconstructions which are being completed by restorer Giulia Barella.

See the video behind the scenes!

  • What is conservative restoration?

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Shards of pottery can get lost over the millennia leaving small gaps in the artistic imagery. Instead of trying to guess at possible filler for these lost pieces, Barella has chosen to retain the full integrity of the piece as we understand it. Where there are gaps she uses a monochrome touch up piece that resembles the background of the base. This kind of conservative restoration means that there are no assumptions and viewers have an unblemished and unbiased view of the existing work.  See the video for how this looks!

  • Sometimes earlier restorations can hinder the work today

For example, one vase on display had to be disassembled before it could be restored. Restoration in the 1800s was crude by today’s standards. Therefore, we melted away the animal based glue they used in the 19th century and separated the 30 composite pieces before Ms. Barella was able to  continue with her own work of puzzling the shards back together with more modern and sustainable adhesive.

It is thanks to the Canadian Chapter that we can continue restoration on these amazing pieces. Stay tuned for more information on this demanding and rewarding project that allows a glimpse into artisans work from thousands of years ago.

(And for a glimpse into life inside the Ceramic and Metal Restoration Laboratorysee this video!)

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Vatican Museums Director, Antonio Paolucci

Vatican Museums Director, Antonio Paolucci

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