A Glimpse into the Museums’ Past Made Beautiful Once More

The generosity of the International Chapter has made possible the restoration of four magnificent plaster casts by the multitalented artist Pietro Melandri. Most famous for his work with ceramics, Melandri was tapped by Pope Pius XI in the early 1930s to aid architects Giuseppe Momo and Gio Ponti in the design of a new entrance to the Vatican Museums. The creation of the independent Vatican State on the 11th of February, 1929 necessitated a new entrance to the museum that would provide access to the space, while separating it physically from Italian territory. Essential to the planning stages of this grand entrance, these four plaster casts document the progression in architectural style from a simple, rusticated portal to a grander and more elaborate architectural statement.

The restoration of these historically significant plaster models carried out by Restorer Marta Giommi was quite complex. Due to poor storage conditions, the casts showed significant structural and cosmetic damage. They had sustained deep scratches and their surfaces were stained by rust, water, and dirt. Plaster is an incredibly porous material that readily absorbs dust and dirt particles. After a careful cleaning with a microfiber brush, the surfaces of the casts remained greyish. In order to preserve the water-soluble material from which the cast is constructed, the restoration team applied warm agar in order to carefully extract particles trapped within the pores of the material. This carefully constructed material removed the dirt from the pieces just as a facemask removes dirt from a human face, leaving these plaster designs white once more. After significant structural reparations, these magnificent glimpses into the design of an important feature of the Vatican Museums are once more ready for view. We are grateful to the International Patrons for their generous contribution that made this restoration possible! We look forward to seeing all of you at the International Patrons event on July 13.