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.

Texas Chapter Visits Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Vatican Gardens

On the Northwest border of Vatican City lies a proposed section for the Gardens restoration project. Like the the Grotto of Lourdes section, this area is located atop Vatican Hill and is a spectacular vantage point for catching a panoramic view of Rome. It is for this lovely place  that the Texas chapter of Patrons has generously donated so that the section of Gardens can be well preserved.  This past week, when they were in town, members of the Texas Chapter visited the site to see first-hand the impact that their contributions are having on the serene and spiritual place.

One of the most special pieces in this section is a statue that gives the area its  namesake – donated by Mexico to Pope Pius XII in 1939,  depicting moment that the apparition of Our Lady of Guadalupe was miraculously revealed in Mexico City in the year 1531. In the statue, native Juan Diego stands in surprise as he gazes upon his Tilma (or peasant cloak) upon which the sacred image of the Virgin appeared.  The Franciscan Bishop, Juan de Zumaraga also kneels in surprise before her,  a witness to the miracle of the beautiful, sacred image.

The Vatican grounds represent one of the finest gardens in the world.  Formed on hallowed ground and cultivated with faith and hope, the growth here is sacred and symbolic of greater spiritual meaning. Many popes have prayed surrounded by this shrine of greenery. Pope John XXIII often reflected in the gardens as he prepared to lead the church through the Second Vatican Council. John Paul II often invited young people to pray the rosary with him at the Lourdes shrine atop the Vatican Gardens. Pope Benedict XVI was also known to pray his rosary here.

STATE OF PRESERVATION:

Although many of the degradation problems of the works were similar, there were different levels of deterioration due to specific factors of corrosion relating to placement (major or minor exposure to sunlight and rainfall), constituent materials, and the presence of previous restorations and/or the reassembly of fragments or parts of the works. Today, thanks to the Texas Chapter these problems are being overcome by restorers. As they were able to witness on their visit – we’ve been able to preserve and restore this majestic statue and the glorious landscape that surrounds it.

The Texas Chapter was able to contribute so much to this effort, but there is still a great need when it comes to our gardens. It’s so important to maintain this holy place and meditative space so that it continues to inspire visitors and holy contemplation. If you are considering donating to one of our projects please think about adopting part of the garden. It is a truly worthy project.

See this link for more information on how to be a part of this effort:

https://www.crowdrise.com/ourladyofguadalupe

 

 

Our Texas Chapter VIisiting the Gardens

Our Texas Chapter VIisiting the Gardens

 

guadalupe statue

Gardens Entrance

fountain