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.

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Perseus in All His Glory- Restoration Update, Almost Fully Restored

Thanks to the support of the Northwest Chapter, and that of Mr. & Mrs. Altig, we have been able to reach the very end of a restoration for one of the museums most beautiful pieces of statuary.

Antonio Canova (1757 – 1822) is one of the most important Italian sculptors of all time. His masterpiece, this Perseus, (finished in 1801) is characterized by classical beauty and a return to renaissance line and posing. The demi-god hero is seen here brandishing the severed head of Medusa, while wearing the helmet of Pluto (which had the power of invisibility), the winged sandals of Mercury, and the diamond sword given to him by Vulcan.

Pope Pius VII not only purchased the glorious statue, but later gave Canova the coveted title of Inspector General of Fine Arts securing his immortality. His Perseus was even displayed on the pedestal of the great “Apollo of the Belvedere” which had been taken to France following the Treaty of Tolentino. It had been the weight, proportions and expressive character of the Belvedere Apollo which had inspired Canova to create Perseus in the first place – so this was a fitting tribute to a great work of art.

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

While restorations on the statue are complete – It is, however, this pedestal which requires the most attention and has slowed the process of getting him back to display. Because of the dynamic rotation and angle of the sculpture’s weight, lead restorer Andrea Felice had to reconstruct the base. This newly designed pedestal enables our hero to remain stating even in the face of vibrations from possible earthquakes.

Look out for more information on Perseus and when he will be back on full display in the Museums. For now, you have to be a patron to see him!

For more on becoming a patron email your local chapter leader.