Vatican Museums restorers save artworks in Italy’s earthquake zones

Firefighters inspect artwork rescued from a church in quake-struck Norcia, Italy - AP

Firefighters inspect artwork rescued from a church in quake-struck Norcia, Italy – AP

(Vatican Radio) Five restorers from the Vatican Museums are working to salvage works of art in churches and towns damaged in recent earthquakes in central Italy: that, according to Barbara Jatta, the Museums’ new director who takes up her post on January 1.  At a press conference Friday, Jatta said most are working in Umbria, between Norcia and Spoleto.

The Vatican Museums’ first woman director said some 20 of the institution’s  65 experts have offered to collaborate with local municipal arts departments to secure fresco cycles and important works buried under the rubble.  The Vatican newspaper, Osservatore Romano, reports that many of the works will be brought to the Museums’ restoration labs to be cleaned and repaired.

Jatta added that the Museums are also supporting the quake zones’ economies by purchasing local food products for their catering services.

Though access to the damaged areas is challenging amid continuous tremors, the Vatican restorers have already inspected 25 churches and 6 fresco cycles.  25 important but injured works of art have been recovered.

Article posted on the Radio Vaticana website


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Wednesday Dicember 21st, 2016 |  5:30PM
Free Entrance from Viale Vaticano showing the invitation
Starting from 5:00PM until 6:00PM

Located between the Chiaramonti Gallery and the Profane Museum, the Braccio Nuovo is one of the most frequented and admired Galleries inside the Vatican.  Built under the supervision of Raffaele Stern during the pontificate of Pope Pius VII and opened to the public in 1822, The Braccio Nuovo is one of the most beautiful examples of Neoclassical Art.  The architecture and colored marble (often taken from old Roman buildings) recall the ancient and glorious past where classic sculptures are displayed in ideal niches similar to their original ambience. The caisson ceiling has skylights that allow natural light to break through and illuminate the whole architectural space. The walls are decorated with stucco-friezes in bas reliefs done by Francesco Massimiliano Laboureur and inspired by famous Roman monuments (e.g. the Trajan Column and the Arch of Titus in the Roman Forum). There are niches that showcase the statues perfectly. Several busts are located on small columns and shelves.

Veduta del Braccio Nuovo con la Statua del Nilo, Musei Vaticani


Sculpture Restoration in the Braccio Nuovo

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This amazing project began in 2009 thanks to the generosity of the Patrons of the Arts, and with the addition of this project, became the first Gallery entirely restored by Patrons! Some of the most important dinners for both the Cardinals and the Patrons of the Arts are held in this marvellous place. This project focussed on the restoration of the sculptures and friezes located on the left hand side of the wall up to the Nile Statue. The task was to complete the cleaning of 132 busts and statues. This project proved an invaluable opportunity for a comprehensive and thorough study of the sculptures and has produced results of importance for the history of restorations between the 16th through the 19th centuries. The Braccio Nuovo, born expressly as a museum display room, is unique from all other galleries in the museums and is one of our most scenic. For the first time in the history of the Museums, an entire selection of classical sculpture has been studied according to a well-planned program both in regards to the historical documentary research and the technical production. The entire project was intended to become a paradigmatic model of intervention to be extended to other areas of the museums of classical sculpture. The work provided a conservative intervention of surface cleaning, grouting and aesthetic treatment for all the sculptures and busts, as well as maintenance on the stucco friezes performed by the Marble Laboratory. All phases of work were duly documented with photographs and the creation of graphics. A database recording each conservation sculptural work and the model used by the laboratory accompanied the intervention.

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State of Preservation before the restoration:

The statues of the Braccio Nuovo were characterized by a large quantity of previous restorations and integrations with stucco and mortar that needed to be removed and redone. Several statues were restored by mixing elements together. Layers of dust and old varnish covered the surfaces and needed to be removed. Naturally, the cleaning enabled a better preservation for the future and increase the public’s appreciation of these pieces.

Restoration Process undertaken for each Statue included:

  • Diagnosis of state and conditions
  • Photographic documentation before restoration
  • Location for scaffolding
  • Laboratory analysis
  • Choice of a suitable cleaning system
  • 3D documentation
  • Cleaning and consolidation of the surface
  • Removal of previous restorations, integrations and consolidations
  • Cleaning of the dark stains resulted from water and pollution
  • Checking and possible removal of iron nails located in the marble structure replaced with fibreglass or steal
  • Recreation of a chromatic balance on the entire surface where needed
  • Overall lay out of protective layer
  • Photographic documentation: 8 photos for each statue; 4 for each bust
  • 3D documentation as integration to the previous one in order to obtain historical documentation of the piece when the ancient restoration is removed
  • Data processing for complete documentation for each single statue



Mosaics Restoration in the Braccio Nuovo

Artist: Unknown
Date: 2nd Century AD
Dimensions: 5,60 x 1.50 ; 5,60x 5,60
Material: Stone
Inventory Number: 45766-45767

The restoration of these two mosaics completed the conservation work which has been carried on for some years now on the floor of the Braccio Nuovo Gallery. At the archaeological excavations conducted brac1between 1817 and 1821 in the area of Tor Marancia on the Via Ardeatina, just outside the Porta San Sebastiano, were found the remains of at least two large residential areas of senatorial families dating back to the second century AD. Some names of the owners, Munatia Procula, Numisia Procula and Fulvius Petronius Aemilianus, still appear on the Fistula aquarium. The archaeological research was carried out by the Marquis Luigi Biondi, butler and superintendent of the property of Princess Maria of Savoy Chablais, daughter of King Vittorio Amedeo III of Sardinia, who, in her will, left the Vatican Museums a part of his collection, now primarily displayed in the Gallery of the Candelabra. A few of the mosaic floors found during the excavations entered in the Vatican collections and were placed, highly integrated and reassembled, in the floor of the Braccio Nuovo, which opened to the public in 1822. These mosaics are made with white and black tiles. Their outline is decorated with geometric patterns or clusters with small birds pecking at grapes, while the central area contains  more complex figurative scenes: marine courting, some episodes of the legendary wanderings of Ulysses in the Mediterranean and, finally, a large representation of Dionysian scenes. At the corners of the Dionysian scene are located tufts of acanthus foliage. At the four corners there are pictures of young satyrs bearing the typical attributes of Tirso and goat skin garments. At the centre there is an older bearded satyr, and a Bacchante with a crown of vine leaves on his head; both are imbued with wine and dance.

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Across the Mosaic, several different restorations—completed during the past few centuries—are evident at surface level. Their visibility is due to the fact that these restoration treatments were, unfortunately, not carried out according to the now established ethics of conservation and bylaws of reversibility in restoration. One particularly compromising restoration, executed in the brac1960s, inserted cement tiles directly into the mosaic and affixed the entire piece to nine metal platforms. These metal platforms eventually became one of the major stresses of the mosaic, as they caused several breaks in the surface structure and, consequentially, the loss of many surface tiles. The mosaic had also been integrated in several areas with lime stone and pozzolana materials. The most harmful material used ended up being the cement, which literally broke parts of the mosaic and its tiles into pieces. Restorers also found that the mosaic’s original limestone, which had originally (and continuously) been keeping portions of the work together, was severely deteriorated and had become another culprit behind the daily loss of tiles and smaller pieces of the mosaic. The first stage of the restoration began with a thorough removal of the many types of deposits that had accumulated in the spaces between the tiles. Next, the surface wax that had been applied to the floor of the Braccio Nuovo, and thus the surface of the mosaic, was removed in order to allow for a better absorption of the consolidating substances applied by the restorers, where needed. The entire surface was then delicately treated: old mortar was carefully removed, and the process of reintegrating missing pieces began. All the missing tiles were reintegrated with new ones that were purposely painted “sottotono” (using a lower tone of color ) in order to showcase the current restoration, following the ethics of conservation and bylaws of restoration of the Vatican Museums: restorers aim to return a work to its necessary level of readability, but only in a way that does not mask the original. The team created a graphic documentation of the work, in order to track the positions of all tiles, original and non-original. Next, restorers applied a silica-based mixture in between and beneath the tiles to consolidate the entire mosaic. Then, gaps were reintegrated with ancient mosaic tiles that were best suited to homogenize the work. These tiles were grouted with mortar in three different tones: one for the dark figures, the black bars, and the perimeter of the frame, one clear mortar for the white areas, and a neutral tone for the central area and the bands of mosaics

State of Preservation before the restoration:

The mosaics were in overall good condition but some tiles were slowly detaching due to time, corrosion and in particular, the heavy travertine support system.

Restoration Process Included:

  • Cleaning of the mosaic surface
  • Replacing of the travertine support with a flexible aluminium honeycomb (areolam)
  • Restoration of the bedding of the tiles.

Thanks to donations from Mr. & Mrs. Petrosky and Robert LoCascio of the New York Chapter, The Statues and the Mosaics in the Braccio Nuovo have been fully restored. Found during excavations of second century dwellings, these marvelously intricate floors were beginning to crack and develop discoloration. Broken tiles were reintroduced and the floor was sealed according to modern restoration techniques so as not to undermine the integrity of the original. Restorers Robert Cassio, Paolo Monaldi and Danielle Belladonna worked laboriously to insure that we can still see the work of the original craftsmen. The finished product is as gloriously represented as when the floors were first completed almost 2,000 years ago.




DSC_3864 - Copia

Long and arduous is the history of the Chair of St. Peter. In 1658, Pope Alexander VII, always turning his attention to Divine Worship and the greater glory of the saints, decided to give the Chair of St. Peter a more worthy residence. The original Chair, according to medieval tradition, was where Saint Peter sat as the first Bishop of Rome and first Pope to instruct the early Christians. It is a venerated wood and ivory relic, and a gift from the Holy Roman Emperor Charles the Bald to Pope John VII in 875. Years later, Pope Alexander VII communicated his intentions of homage and
devotion to his most favorite sculptor Giovanni Lorenzo _ Bernini. The artist at once set out on paper to draft ideas for a project that indubitably would, for its supreme beauty and importance, be undeniably worthy of the “sublime intentions” of the Holy Pontiff.

This was indeed the case. In the apse of St. Peter’s Basilica, Bernini’s monumental magnum opus was born, masterfully executed in marble, gilded stucco and bronze, and would be known through the ages as the Chair of St. Peter. Bernini actually invented a type of grandiose reliquary for the chair a veritable theatrical machine in which the four Doctors of the Church, larger than life, support a bronze chair (encapsulating the original wooden relic) that miraculously rises towards angelic hosts and the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove. The preparatory models of the angels and the heads of Saints Athanasius and John Chrysostom are already restored, thanks the generous contributions of the New York Chapter and Mrs. Romanelli of the Patrons of the Arts. The angel models actually vary in size (there are two larger and two smaller), as they correspond to two various stages of design elaboration. These clay and straw models used for the fusion of the bronze figures of the Chair are precious witnesses of the evolution of the overall work. They testify to how the immense undertaking was transformed over the course of a decade during which Bernini continuously labored with his grand project. The work, in fact, unfolded with great difficulty. At first, Bernini had designed the Altar of the Chair much smaller with respect to the current design. The Altar visible today in St. Peter’s is about 30 meters high – over twice the size of the original project. The first stage is reflected in the models of the two smaller angels, which were eventually rejected since they no longer aligned within the new grandiose structure. The source of this change stems from when, in 1658-1660, Bernini made a life-sized model of the altar in wood and plaster to fit into the apse of St. Peter’s in order to verify the project’s proportions.

The angels set against this model were altogether too small. Years later, Lyon Pascoli in his book “Lives”, recalls the episode when Bernini met with a fellow painter friend, Andrea Sacchi. Pascoli writes, “…they entered the church, and little by little came closer to the cross. Noticing that Andrea had still not yet discovered the Chair, Bernini continued to walk so as to lead his friend closer to see it. Andrea, however, remained in his place and said, ‘Here, Mr. Bernini, is the place from where I would like to see, and where one should be able to see the work, and where I long for it to come into view.’ Since this was the point of the visit, Bernini considered and reconsidered Andrea’s words while the latter, still without a quiver of movement or one step forward, added that the three statues from that vantage point should be at least a good hand’s width larger. Leaving the church without anything more to say, Andrea entered his carriage to depart….Meanwhile, the great Bernini who already had known all this himself, angrily set off to recreate his figures”. (L. Pascoli, “Lives”, 1730).


It was like this, then, and with the help of sculptors Ercole Ferrata and Antonio Raggi, that Bernini decided to enlarge the monument, for which he made a second version of the angels and the heads of Saints Athanasius and John Chrysostom, now restored. The second version of the angels, much larger and proportional to the whole of the altar, was used for the bronze casting. Once the size was clarified, undertaking the Chair’s execution was an event filled with suffering. Bernini persevered despite King Louis XIV ‘s mandate for him to remain in France. The artist, so far away from Rome, would sometimes have tears welling up in his eyes when thinking about the work. The work was finally finished in 1666. In a solemn procession, the work was carried in to be placed in the Bernini masterpiece. The hailed artist wrote to his friend in Chantelou, France, “It is by the grace of God that I finished the Chair.”


Model for an Altar Angel of the Blessed sacrament in saint Peter’s Basilica

Already in 1629 Pope Urban VIII had commissioned Bernini to design an altar in St. Peter’s Basilica dedicated to the most Blessed Sacrament. The Holy Pontiff never had, however, the joy of seeing the work completed. The long design phase that included several revisions ended only in 1673 under the papacy of Pope Clement X, culminating in an altar design in which the tabernacle is flanked on either side by two angels, adoring, and on bended knee. The kneeling angel, now restored, is the model for the bronze casting, and is located on the right of the tabernacle. The angel was made from clay and straw by Giovanni Lorenzo Bernini with the help of Giovanni Rinaldi in 1673



The restoration work began with a preliminary dust removal, which clearly showed that in numerous places parts of the plaster were missing, and had been subject to past efforts to fill and reconstruct them. In turn, they were cleverly disguised with coloured paints stretching over the original surfaces. A notable type of dust particulate present on the work made it evident that the constitutive elements of the work (i.e wood and straw) were at one point compromised by insect infestation, clearly necessitating the need for anoxic disinfestation treatment. The deposits of dust and layer of dirt that greyed the surfaces were removed by special gum erasers varying in their texture and composition. Varnishes and other invasive substances were eliminated with solvent packs in order to not leave any marks or stains on the clay. This substance was also applied in the areas where the iron structural elements were corroded in order to slow down further degradation.

At the end of revitalizing most of the surfaces from the time when the angels were originally executed, it was necessary to then remove the most recent “refurbishing” interventions that were made. These attempts to consolidate the piece with plaster actually contributed in part to the piece’s overall degradation. The works were also pieced back together. The consolidation efforts, mainly adhesions and structural reconstructions, were executed using an impasto with a cellulite base specifically formulated for this project. Its characteristic ease in application and workability, lightness, maximum reversibility, and, most importantly, its lack of aqueous or greasy solvents rendered this impasto perfect for the job. The visible surfaces of these reconstructions were successfully camouflaged by using watercolor paints applied with a stippling technique. The result: a perceptibly homogenous and intact piece.

Four Decorated Coptic Tunics Fragments

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These four fragments constitute an important testimony to the art of Coptic textile, according to the documentations of the 4th to 5th centuries in Akhmim, the ancient city of Panopolis, one of the major centers in the Nile Valley. The city was the Episcopal Chair of the Bishop since the 4th century. Akhmim (Panopolis) was celebrated in the late ancient world for its textile industry, its factories capable of producing fabrics of grand refinement and artistic technicality. Surrounded by an extensive necropolis that was excavated from the end of the 19th century by French and German archeologists, Panopolis has provided us with precious textile artifacts, the major part of which are attributable to those well-endowed, as indicative of the refined executive techniques in its workmanship along with the incorporation of precious materials such as silk and gold in their design.

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Statue of Aura


This feminine figure majestically walks with her left leg in front and the right one flexed and back. A light Chiton falls to the woman’s ankles and_MG_8830 adheres to her breasts and legs, contouring her curves. Meanwhile, a mantel is wrapped around the central part of her body. Originally, it was supposed to appear lifted above her head, blown by the wind. As a matter of fact, the statue represents the embodiment of sea breeze -a subject that was frequently used in ancient Greece to decorate temples. Especially on the acroterion statues, which usually adorned the top of the pediments. It is assumed that it is precisely an acroterion figure which was held as a role model for our statue, along with other Roman replicas -of which the majority were made in Pentelic marble and can  be dated back to the 1st century AD. However, the original prototype can be found in Greece and is most likely done by the hands of an Attic sculptor who, influenced by Fidia, operated in the final decades of the 5th century BC. With regards to the sculptures which adorned the pediments of the Parthenon, the famous sculptor from Athens experimented innovative plastic solutions in order to render the movements of the draperies and the lightness of the clothing into the marble. The fabric wraps around the female curves and enhances them, almost as if it were wet. For the first time in the history of ancient art, the female curves are shown with their realistic nature. The statue of Aura, even though it is a Roman replica of later centuries, witnesses the grand artistic and cultural period that occurred in Athens in the 5th century BC; right after the victory against the Persians, and especially during the governing of Pericles.




Infant Coptic Tunic

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The expression “Coptic Art” practically defines artistic production in Egypt from the first centuries of our time until the end of the Ottoman Empire. This time period can be recognized in three distinct phases: the first extends from the Emperor Augustus to that of Constantine, who in 313 liberated the Christian religion; the second corresponds to when Christianity was most widespread in Egypt and lasts until the country’s Islamic conquest in 640 A.D.; the third takes place during this Islamic rule until its termination in 1798, marking the conclusion of the Ottoman domination.
Even if during the first phase, Coptic Art found expression within artistic sectors not directly connected to the field of Christian religion (i.e. wood relief, ivory, bronze works, painted ceramics), at the onset of the Islamic age it became practically synonymous with Christian Egyptian Art. In this age the Copts – a term now identifying solely the country’s Christian inhabitants – give life to a unique form of artistic production. This type of creative work, primarily cultivated in monastic communities, primarily found expression in the world of icons and textile art.
The textile is, in fact, among the best known artistic expressions relating to this cultural context. The pieces that have made their way to us are fragments of used clothing, commonly used liturgical garments, and, for example, tunics typical in men’s and women’s clothing. Other elements in this genre of art are found among the walls of religious buildings or sepulchral monuments, tablecloths, carpets, or curtains. The massive fabric production was favorable thanks to environmental conditions perfect for fostering the cultivation of flaxseed for linen, as well as by the high demand for such imports from centers of trade such as Rome or other imperial zones. Often textiles were used as money, as a method of exchange to bring other merchant goods into Egypt. It should not be forgotten that from the fourth century, the Christianization of the region was increasingly generated proportional to textile production: mummification practices had disappeared, and bodies were wrapped in simple bandages which essentially gave way to the custom of using ordinary clothing for burial.
A certain number of Coptic garments were conserved thanks to this practice of burying the dead in their own clothes. The dry Egyptian climate contributed to their well-preserved state. The clothes were generally in linen or wool, and the colors that were used included red, blue, yellow, green, purple, black and brown. Dyes were obtained from plants and natural elements such as rubia, indigo, Jerusalem woad, saffron, Tyrian dye from the murex shell, and from an insect known as carmine. Since the 17th century, Coptic cloths were transported to Europe because of grand curiosity expressive of an exotic and mysterious world, arousing the interest of collectors that throughout even the 19th century sought to claim by unconventional excavations, often cutting pieces to “fit” their various commissions.
The Vatican tunic was a discovery from the necropolis of Akhmim in Upper Egypt, the Greek Panopolis, towards the end of the 19th century. It was on display in 1898 in the Exposition of Sacred Art in Turin by the Missionary Fathers of Upper Egypt who subsequently donated it, along with other wearable art hailing from the same place, to the Sacred Museum.
Along with other works in the Vatican Museums, it is also reconstructed from various pieces. It presents an amply large area to be patched, approximately rectangular in form in the upper area found by the neck between the shoulder areas, along with several other intermediate attempts that were performed in an effort to fix the garment. The sleeves appear separate from the rest of the tunic and then re-sewn.
The decorative motif consists of the following elements: two red and green clavi, or elongated embellishments, which descend down the shoulders and back, terminating at a small green leaf; two yellow circles with a red dot on top and below (front and back of garment); two green heart-shaped leaves on the shoulders and at knee-height (front and back); wide stripes on the sleeves in green, red, and white. The tunic played a leading role in Egypt Coptic clothing design for both men, women, and children alike, generally woven in linen (even if the tunics during the later period were also in wool). Men’s tunics generally arrived to the length of the knee, while women’s went all the way to the foot. This fabric garment was normally woven in one piece, wherein the weaving pattern began on the frame at the end of one sleeve, expanded at the body – with the foresight to leave an opening for the neck – and then narrowed again at the second sleeve. The tunics for children were characterized by very narrow sleeves, and were typically long-sleeved as opposed to short. They added significantly to the figurative design repertoire also because they were generally brightly colored or included animal figures. Decorations were incorporated into the design for the purposes of compliance with Roman style in antiquity. The shorter Coptic tunics were richly bedecked by adding flair along the neck and edges. They actually appear as inserts, or additions to the tunic, called orbiculi (circular or oval form) or tabulae (square), which were woven or applied at shoulder to knee height. Decorating the Coptic tunics, unique in its time of fabric production of the age, created a type of language, which expressed the social position of the outfitted person.
Along with geometric motifs (i.e. stars, interlocking hexagons, circles) and natural vegetation (i.e. flowers, lotus buds, leaves and intertwining branches, often symbolizing abundant fertility), there were also more traditional and ancient motifs. These included animal decorations (especially birds, leopards, lions, fish, and the human figure), often classically inspired. With the liberation of the Catholic religion, Coptic tunics began to be decorated also with Christian symbols including crosses, images of saints, and scenes from the Bible.

Gallery of the Maps Catalog


In 1579, Gregory XIII, a Pope who was enamored with art and science, commissioned architect Ottaviano Mascherino, cartographer Ignazio Danti who was a Dominican friar, and a host of great painters to realize this massive project. By 1581, a mere three years later, work on the gallery was complete: this was the Gallery of the Maps. Within the hall, the whole of the Italian peninsula is painted from north to south. The viewer instantly feels the strong presence of the Church as the great force that links together the small and then divided territories of Italy. The Pope, coming from his apartments, could travel across the Alps and walk along the crest of the Apennines. To his right he could see the Tyrrhenian side of the peninsula, and to his left the Adriatic. Magnificent compass roses, masterfully painted and gilded, create a wonderfully glittering illusion, pointing to the Vatican Gardens on one side and the Cortile del Belvedere on the other. The hallway is absolutely brimming with beautiful detail, illuminated by large panoramic windows. The “magnificent walk” through the hall would have led the Pope among the valleys, hills, forests, rivers and streams, lakes and waterfalls, cities, towns and villages, in a model of reality. Roads and paths are represented precisely to scale, with distances measured in the Roman mile and carefully indicated. There are accurately depicted ports and islands, both large and small, with seas traversed by galleons, galleys, caravels, and brigs. And finally, the hallway also depicts historical events such as the allegory of Columbus, the troops of Caesar at the Rubicon, the army and elephants of Hannibal at the battle of Cannae, and the meeting between Attila and Pope St. Leo I, as well as the more recent battle of Lepanto and siege of Malta. The restoration on the hall began on September 17, 2012, with a group of restorers selected after a careful consideration of their curricula and experiences to work under the supervision of Francesco Prantera. That fall, when the group of conservators, restorers, painters, and decorators climbed on scaffolding they found the maps in a serious state of deterioration. Large parts of the plaster were marred by deep fractures, which meant that the frescoes were in danger of collapse. In addition, the pigment of the seas was fragile and discolored.
The walls were scattered with patches of old, incorrect restorations while the surfaces were coated with a thick varnish that had yellowed, improperly altering the delicate green and blue tone of the gallery. After the unveiling of the extraordinary Gallery of the Maps in April 2016, thanks to the California Patrons Chapter, the Vatican Museums will publish a bi-lingual (English-Italian) book illustrating the details of its restoration.

Fresco by Antoniazzo Romano from the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls

Cerchia di Antoniazzo Romano; San Paolo, affresco staccato; sec. XV; Basilica di S. Paolo fuori le mura; Sala Gregoriana (Pinacoteca)

The fresco is located in an area of the basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls, accessible by way of Via Ostiense. Its particular concave lunette shape is due to its decorative function for a space that was originally a small apse.  In the architectural alterations of the latter centuries, it lost its function. Curiously, the work is now above the door of one of the small spaces in the passageway that, from the Gregorian Room, leads to the Baptistery and Transept. Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles, is rendered with his characteristic beard and elongated profile. He is reading a book, opened in his left hand, while his right hand wields a sword. The weapon is typical in iconographic depictions of the saint, who upon his conversion, no longer persecuted the Christians, but instead fought for their salvation and was eventually martyred, beheaded by the sword. Despite the current problematic state of conservation, underneath the efflorescence (salt migration on the surface) and below the incoherent deposits, the quality of the image can still be seen. The sacred solemnity of a medieval inspiration is fused with an organic, fluid rendering of the saint, already alluding to figurative elements of the Renaissance. This is a combination characteristic of the artistic hand of Antonio di Benedetto Aquili, better known as Antoniazzo Romano. It is also a style prevalent in painting cycles of the late 15th century, particularly in the 1480’s and 1490’s. Generally considered one of the most masterful interpreters of the Roman art scene of the second half of the 15th century, Antoniazzo is the only one to be mentioned by Giorgio Vasari in his “Lives” as ‘one of the best that ever was in Rome’ and who had a flourishing workshop. The painting’s authorship was first attributed to Antoniazzo in 1909 by Bernhard Berenson (from the “Central Italian Painters of the Renaissance”).

Lion of Monterosso by Arturo Martini

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Leone di Monterosso is one of the preparatory models that Arturo Martini completed during the creation of an artwork commissioned by Arturo Ottolenghi in 1932. The desired location for this masterpiece was his villa on a hill in Monterosso, near Acqui Terme. The Ottolenghi Counts, Arturo and Herta von Wedekind zu Horst, relied on the well-known architect Marcello Piacentini to build their residence in 1920. Following its completion, they entrusted very important artists with the decoration of their villa. Among these were Fortunato Depero, Adolfo Wildt, Libero Andreotti, Ferruccio Ferrazzi and Arturo Martini.
The amazing sculptor from Treviso started working on the Lion project during the summer of 1932. He carried out various replicas in which he developed the composition’s structure. The artist gave particular attention to the animal’s muzzle and tail -elements that for artists associate with the description of the animal’s personality.
It is interesting to remember how Martini initially intended to depict a chimaera rather than a lion. A Chimaera is a beast from Greek mythology that has a lion’s head and body, a snake’s tail and a second head -that of a goat. This choice reveals the grand fascination the artist has with regards to Etruscan sculptures: «I am the true Etruscan -Martini declared -they gave me the language and I gave them voice to speak. I expressed them. I could have created thousands of statues, made just as they would have imagined them». For the Lion of Monterosso, the artist drew his inspiration from Chimera d’Arezzo, an absolute masterpiece, found in 1553 near the city after which it takes the name. Today, it is in the National Archeological Museum in Florence. Enlightened by this model, Martini molds a first study out of plaster. Ottolenghi appreciated the “bozzetto”, which he defined as «strong and terrible, and marvelous»; while other people closer to the artist criticized it. To these perplexities and criticisms Martini responded that he did not «want to create a lion like those that are in the Zoological Museum», rather he intended to create «a Chimaera, inspired by a lion and all the other beasts. Monterosso will distinguish himself thanks to the fantastic Lion.» This variation will appear clearly in the following phases of the creative process, while keeping the memory of this fantastic beast alive. This metamorphosis is shown even more in the terracotta version that was brought to the Vatican in 1959, when Pius XII commissioned the creation of two rooms dedicated to the art of the 20th century within the art gallery. The finalized artwork, made out of red Simona rock from Valcamonica, reached its completion in September 1934.

Eighteen gold glass artifacts


The golden glass collection of the Vatican Museums is amongst the most remarkable worldwide; and these pieces belong to the most precious glass productions of the late ancient ages. A refined technique allowed the creation of glass pottery, mostly plates and bowls, which were decorated with representations made in gold leaf that were set into two layers of glass.

_F5A3652 The majority of these artifacts were found within the Roman catacombs, where they were fixed to the finishing mortar of the cemetery plots. For the most part, they are decorated with features and subjects of the Christian figurative repertoire: biblical and theological themes like the traditio legis, the concordia apostolorum and representations of saints and martyrs. Moreover, there were also family portraits and representations of pagan mythology and Jewish tradition. The restoration intervention, planned for 2017, aims to restore eighteen of these very important relicts and to research a more adequate preservative system to be carried out in specific containers. Moreover, in 2018 there will be an intervention concerning another core of golden glass artifacts; these still have to be defined, as well as other glass objects.