Statue of Mars – Conservation Project


Before Restoration

The exact origin of this sculpture is unfortunately unknown, but has been a part of quite a number of private collections. At the end of the 700s, antique dealer and painter Gavin Hamilton laid claim to the piece, after which it was part of the Marconi collection from Frascati, and in the 19thcentury became part of the pontifical collections for installation within the Lateran Museum.

Finally, in 1963 it was transferred to the Vatican along with other findings, and some years later was exhibited in the new Gregorian Profane museum.

The body is that of a young man in heroic nudity, dressed only with a cape fastened by a clasp on the right shoulder, partially covering his back. The statuary type of this artifact is notable by comparison with other replicas of the imperial age, inspired by Greek sculpture models of the 5th century BC. However, this one appears to have been adapted in the course of the 2nd century AD.  For honorary statues this was often the case—especially portraits of emperors such as Antonino Pio, Marco Aurelio, and Lucio Vero. In this case, the military character of the iconographic typology is revealed by the armor shaped like a tree trunk, which lies on the support next to the right leg.

Moreover, the head, which also was modified during modern restoration interventions, can be compared to other replicas of the imperial ages. The origin is hypothetically from a bronze statue that depicts the Greek god of war, Ares, and created in Attica between 430 and 420 BC.


After Restoration


  • Chemical cleaning, removal of coherent surface particle deposits using a stone pack of sepiolite (a magnesium mineral), pulp paper and water, interposed by a sheet of Japanese paper treated with a 10% ammonium bicarbonate solution;
  • On the uneven upper vertical surface areas, buffer cleaning was done with the help of Japanese paper, hot water and a 10% ammonium bicarbonate solution;
  • Traces of brown-reddish paint were eliminated using swabs and acetone;
  • Extraction of removeable salt deposits left on the painted surface; this was done using Japanese paper and water;


  • The plaster fig leaf was removed with the aid of water and a chisel; the large plaster grout located at the rear of the stone base was also removed;
  • Pin removal: the oxidized metal pin holding the sword was replaced with one in stainless steel. Bonding was carried out with EPO 121 epoxy inserted in the pivotal area at the base of the handle (only at the top). This area was then liberally filled with Plasticrete mixed with marble powder. The sword was secured by creating light gluing points with EPO 121 on the support of the handle adjacent to the sword;


  • Gaps were filled with stucco composed of lime putty and marble powder and chromatically matched to the color of the marble surface.


The Restoration of the Mastiff Dog

The sculpture of the Cane Molosso statue (Mastiff Dog) is located in the Octagonal Courtyard and it is a very famous work dating back to the first century A.D. In 2016, a curious visitor broke this sculpture, inserting his hand inside the mouth, causing very serious damage to the jaw. The detached jaw piece then fractured in the fall.

The sculpture, acquired by the Vatican Collections in 1770 and integrated by Gaspare Sibila in 1779, was subject to a complete restoration beginning with a double phase cleaning with chemicals and laser.  Through these techniques, the restorer, Anna Lea Mattozzi, freed the stone surface from layers of powders (mixed with altered protective materials) and anthropogenic deposits.

    Subsequently, the innovative systems proposed by Ulderico Santamaria (responsible for the Scientific Research Laboratory) were used to consolidate the fragments. Afterwards, the fragments were reconstructed, and the jaw was reattached to the work.In the course of the restoration, restorers also found some coins inside the mouth that allowed them to understand the meddling visitor’s actions. Currently Giandomenico Spinola and Claudia Valeri are analyzing a protection system for this sculpture in order to prevent other curious visitors from causing further damage. The Mastiff Dog will return to the courtyard shortly as soon as its protection is secured.


Christ Saves Saint Peter from sinking in the Water

“Christ Saves Saint Peter from sinking in the Water” Giovanni Lanfranco 1627 – 1628 Italy, commissioned by Pope Urban VIII 400 x 500 cm Fresco Inv. 44238 Adopted by Bruce Waller from the Illinois Chapter Benediction Loggia, St. Peter’s Basilica – BEFORE RESTORATION

Giovanni Lanfranco’s “Christ saves Saint Peter from sinking in the water” is a baroque translation of Giotto di Bondone’s “Navicella” also featured in St. Peter’s Basilica in a lunette over the central opening into the portico.[1]Just like Giotto’s interpretation, the current mosaic present in St. Peter’s depicts the special relationship between Jesus and Peter. Jesus walks on the water inviting Peter to join him, and when Peter is overcome with fear and begins to sink, Jesus saves him. The following bible passage describes the scene:


“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

“Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:28-33 NIV)

In Lanfranco’s version of the piece, the figure’s expressions and postures are more emphasized than Giotto’s depiction, and the composition is more complex. The viewer’s eye is first drawn to Peter’s distressed face and hands thrown in the air, highlighting his fear. Jesus, depicted with a serene face of love, grasps Peter’s hand. Lanfranco further underlines this relationship representing both Peter and Jesus in blue attire. Compositionally, the scene in the foreground is imposed on a highly charged and dynamic background. Though Jesus’s vestments reflect the turbulence of the surrounding climate, his posture is upright and undisturbed contrasting both Peter and the rest of the Apostles’ active, diagonal stances as well as the tempestuous scenery. Jesus’s left hand gestures upward, urging Peter to recall his faith denoted by the cherubs and break in the clouds. One could also metaphorically interpret the painting reading the storm striking fear in the apostles as representing sin and temptation. As Peter’s faith falters, he begins to sink into the water, but Jesus saves him.


The Navicella (“little ship”) of Old Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome, mosaic by Giotto di Bondone

The artist, Giovanni Lanfranco (1582 -1647), was an early proponent of the Baroque style, which is characterized by lavishly theatrical settings and scenes, emotionally intense depictions representing both physical and psychological states, and dramatic use of color with strong contrasts between light and dark. The Baroque style flourished in Europe during the early 17ththrough the late 18thcentury, and its influence is identifiable most prominently in the architecture, art, and music of the time. The Baroque artwork is highly ornamented and extravagant, directly reacting to the artistic austerity espoused by Martin Luther and the Reformation movement.

Here are some other characteristic examples of Baroque artwork featured in the Vatican Museum’s Pinacoteca:

Giovanni Battista Gaulli, called Baciccia, (Genoa 1639 – Rome 1709)
Vision of St Francis Xavier, c.1675
Oil on canvas, 64.5 x 46 cm
Cat. 41489


Guido Reni, (Bologna 1575 -1642)
Crucifixion of St Peter, 1604-1605
Oil on wood, 305 x 171 cm
Cat. 40387

Lanfranco studied in Parma, his birthplace, under Agostino Caracci and was inspired by Correggio’s fresco work in the surrounding Italian region. He spent the majority of his career in Rome working on frescoes such as those in the Sala Regia, though he also worked in Naples from 1634 to 1646. He made his name as a progressive and efficient fresco artist especially adept at painting domes. In 1626, Urban VIII commissioned Lanfranco to replace an altarpiece (also depicting the Navicella) painted by Bernardo Castello. Upon hearing that his work in St. Peter’s Basilica, the highpoint of his career, would be replaced due to its deterioration, Castello is said to have become distraught.

There is a long history of depictions of this scene in the basilica particularly because of the connection it has with the primacy of St. Peter among the other Apostles. Castello’s previous altarpiece was commissioned by Pope Clement VIII (1592-1605) in an attempt to use the image of Peter as the Vicar of Christ to reaffirm papal power as a response to Protestant publicity. Despite being painted in fresco, Lanfranco’s work also began to deteriorate soon after. It was successively restored 1662 by Raffaele Vanni, then in 1687 and 1694 by Giuseppe Montano. The current composition was transferred to its current place in the Benediction Loggia in 1721 and was replaced by Pietro Paolo Cristofari’s mosaic replica in 1727.

The latest restoration process was sponsored by Bruce Waller from the Illinois chapter in 2013. Thanks to his support, the legacy of this piece and the continued presence of the Navicella narrative will endure for years to come. Lanfranco’s Navicella is by far his most dramatic piece painted in Rome and is considered the peak of his artistic development in the Baroque style.

[1]The current version of Giotto’s Navicella is a heavily restored mosaic reaffixed at the command of Pope Paul V. Only fragments remain of the original after a copy was made in 1675.



Miracles happen every day. 

Each of the seven days of creation bears within it a multiplicity of miracles. At the center of it all, lies the remarkably complex creation of man himself—the receiver of God’s affectionate love and His most amazing miracle to boot. Though the relationship was sacrificed by the disobedience of Adam and Eve, God continues to unceasingly draw every man to Himself, and the promise of His Covenant with His people can never be severed. God’s covenantal love, or sacred family bond, is inherent within each biblical family.  God reveals to Noah that the covenant reaches beyond the family nucleus and “ is with [Noah] and with all his descendants after” (Genesis 9:9). Though others would not find favor with God and be swept away in the massive flood, Noah’s family mission is steadfast in guarding and communicating love. The beginning of this perpetual covenantal story (which still, of course, continues today) is documented not only in the Bible, but makes its way into various early Christian artworks.  Interest in the figurative and visual arts of early Christianity reached its height in the 16th century, during the Catholic response to the Reformation.Knowledge of early Church and her works became key.

In the 18th century, Pope Benedict XIV (1740-1758) successfully organized a “Christian Museum” in the Vatican, housing those works that give us a glimpse in to the culture and faith of the the first Christian communities in Rome. Established in 1852 under the papacy of Pius IX (1846-1870), the Commission for Sacred Archaeology insured the utmost protection for these rich archaeological pieces of Christian heritage. Two years later, in an effort to save precious pieces that were unearthed, Pius IX transferred the artifacts to the Lateran Palace in a collection he called “Pius.”  In 1963 the collection of Christian patrimony was moved to the Vatican, and became permanent residents of the “Pius Christian Museum.”  Every visitor upon entering the Museums can turn a corner and listen to the testimonies of Christian families and martyrs from the 2nd to 4th centuries, etched in the stone sarcophagi in this collection. This frontal sarcophagus piece is one of many that bears witness to the precious Christian artifacts, as the precious covenantal bond of God with His people is carved into them.  Here, Noah is seen sending out a dove to determine if, after forty days in the ark, the flood waters had subsided. The dove touches the head of another figure, perhaps one of Noah’s sons, who carries a bastion that leads the eye into the next scene.  Three youths, refusing to worship false deities, sing the praises of the one true God after thrown in the fiery furnace by King Nebuchadnezzar.  Lifting up their hands in prayer, they sing of their transgressions and the miracle of still being showered in God’s mercy.  They are unconsumed by the flames.  Noah’s family is spared from the flood. One miracle flows directly into another. 

The images decorate the tombs of the faithful who bore witness to the miracles of God in their own lives and next miracle? It is how the Vatican restorers brought this piece of heritage and faith back to life. The sarcophagus is a relief sculpture piece that had undergone maintenance, restorations and perhaps reworked interventions over time. During the preliminary “autopsy” of the work, certain findings helped determine the present state of intervention and “readability” of the piece. There was evidence of coherent deposits and stains, either from exposure to less than desirable conditions, or from the hand of a previous attempt at fixing the piece. Wax or paints were used to cover damages, and these exhibited deposits resultantly compromised the integrity of the carved surface. Generally the surfaces of sarcophagi often show widespread scratches and exfoliation phenomena. In the case of areas where dirt and deposits are more heavily encrusted, thus hindering the piece’s aesthetic integrity, the restorers have to remove these deposits using diversified laser technology.  Oftentimes, Japanese rice paper will be affixed to the surface with a paste made from natural ingredients, which serves to stabilize the rest of the work while the area that is being tackled undergoes some “bumps and bruises” during the restoration process. 

An indispensable part of the procedure involved cleaning the stone surfaces while maintaining scrupulous attention to individual elements and adherence to the pre-restoration analysis performed with the help of the Diagnostic Survey Laboratory.  Great care was always taken in preserving and analyzing traces of polychrome and coatings, and special uses of material such as agar allowed for controlled, careful cleaning. At first glance, one sees a piece of stone.  A second look allows one to read through the miracles of the Bible on its surface. In these scenes is the promise of God’s never-ending, miraculous love for all His people. And the generosity of some of these people ensures that millions more can appreciate this piece of stone. Miracles do happen every day… especially when you are one of them. 

Virgin and Child with a Goldfinch

A note on the Author

After Restoration

The Italian artist Spinello Aretino (c. 1350 – c. 1410) was the pupil of Jacopo Casentino, and his style grew primarily out of great influence by the medieval painter and architect Taddeo Gaddi (c. 1290 – 1366). Giotto’s workshop welcomed this fine artist rom 1313 to 1337, during which time Aretino’s style blossomed into a medley of characteristics from the schools of Giotto and that of Siena.

As a young adult, Aretino worked in Florence as an assistant to his master Casentino, frescoing the churches of Carmine and Santa Maria Novella.  Later between 1360 and 1384 his brushes graced the walls of churches in nearby Arezzo, though many of the have unfortunately been lost.  After the sack of Arezzo in 1384, Aretino returned to his beloved Florence from 1387 to 1388, this time illustrating scenes from the life of Saint Benedict in the walls and vault of San Miniato’s sacristy.

These frescoes epitomize that of Giotto in their composition, and although now remain in poor condition, were originally rendered with a decorative brilliance using Sienese colors. Aretino completed another six frescoes between 1391 and 1392, still viewable on the south wall of the Campo Santo of Pisa. These images illustrate the miracles of St. Potitus and St. Ephesus.  Also not to be forgotten are Aretino’s later works, including his fresco cycles painted between 1407-1408 on the walls and vault of a chapel in the municipal buildings of Siena. Sixteen of these frescoes represent the war of Frederick Barbarossa against the republic of Venice. Although these works suffer from intermediate restorative efforts, they still exemplify Aretino’s refined skill.

Also one of his later paintings, the Virgin and Child with a Goldfinchby Aretino manifests the artistic acumen attained by the early 15thcentury. This work is composed of three poplar-wood panels on which we see an image of the Virgin Mary seated with the baby Jesus on her lap.  Jesus is holding a small goldfinch in his right hand, and clutches his mother’s mantel with his left hand.  Angels surround the Virgin’s throne, delightfully embellishing the background with their decorative effect.


Restoration of the Virgin and Child with a Goldfinch

At the onset of the restoration, the painting suffered from being poorly conserved in the previous centuries.  Firstly, significant termite damage characterized the wooden panels, and there were many vertical fissures in the wood. The bright colors characteristic of a Sienese hand had been dulled due to oxidation and overcoats of varnish that aged and yellowed over the years. A good deal of meticulous work would be required to bolster and restore the painting.

The first step in restoration involved giving the painting a brand new support system. The original structure was constructed using steel bars that did not allow flexibility for the natural “breathing” of the wood, resulting in many cracks. Thanks to the work of Massimo Alessi, our specialist in wood supports, both the wooden panel and the frame were fortified by instituting a new system of springs and screws in order to prevent any further damage. Current cracks were carefully filled with Stucco. As for cleaning, it was first necessary to remove all previous attempts to restore the piece in order to arrive at the actual pictorial layer. The effects of oxidation were carefully removed.  The restorers then began a “revival” process for both the pictorial surface and the gilded sections.

The restoration team truly achieved a reinvigoration of Arentino’s work. They brought the piece back from near catastrophic damage. The author’s distinctive use of bold color and magnificent forms reminiscent of the 15thcentury were discernable once more, and appreciated anew.

We have the utmost gratitude for the Canada Chapter for their support in addressing this important and marvelous work of Aretino.


After Restoration

Restoration of a Sarcophagus with Twelve Apostles, thanks to Liana Marabini of our Monte Carlo Chapter

Thanks to the generous support of Liana Marabini, the Chapter Leader of the Monaco Chapter, the restoration of the marble Sarcophagus with the Twelve Apostles, executed and supervised by the Marble Restoration Lab of the Vatican Museums, was successfully completed between 2014 and 2015.

Cassa di sarcofago a porte di città: i dodici apostoli disposti ai lati dell'emblema della risurrezione (mancante) offrono corone. Sui lati, decorazione a pelte intrecciate; marmo; 375 - 400; Musei Vaticani; Museo Pio Cristiano; Inv. 31521


Conservation background conditions

The initial analytical examination of the work revealed that much of the sculptural relief was illegible due to high levels of atmospheric dust as well as severe erosion.

Upon closer inspection, the surface appeared dull and unnatural. This perception was caused by the presence of a thick layer of altered waxy substances, applied during previous restorations, in an effort to revive the area affected by water flow when the work was used as a fountain basin. Sculpted surfaces, especially those depicting faces and drapery, were severely eroded.

The restorers identified extensive cracking, considerable gaps and surface areas altered by the presence of dried lichens, which left large and circular white marks on the stone strata, negatively altering the aesthetic appearance. A large lesion originating from the top edge of the sarcophagus ran parallel to the lower edge of the carved face,  fracturing the Apostles’ ankles. This phenomenon was also emphasized by a large deposit of dark limestone caused by leakage and water flow from the crack. A second lesion, larger in size, was previously closed with a bronze bracket, running lengthwise on the left side of the sarcophagus, and branching along the base.

Inv 31521 DR


Restoration Solutions

This restoration, which began with a complete preliminary study using photographic and analytic tests, was primarily aimed at repairing the cracks in the sarcophagus. This was done with infiltrations of acrylic resins made with alcohol and premixed water mortars specific for restoration. The cleaning, and regulation following test results, was performed by applying a support system, made up of a gel product, for a brief period of time in order to stabilize the work. Various mechanical instruments were used, such as an compressed air apparatus; they facilitated the removal of surface layers of gypsum in the old fillings.

For the cleaning of the section, which featured a brown limestone crust, the “Michelangelo” Laser was used.  This machine permits an extremely precise and selective intervention. The applied stucco fillings are made of finely granular marble dust and lime putty. Prior to the application of the final protection layer developed by the Marble Restoration Lab, the retouching involved the use of  isopropanol Gamblin organic color pigments limited to areas where lichens left traces. The central bronze bracket was also adjusted to the perimeter of the monument, so that it would no longer be in its initial central position, where it blocked the vision of the iconographic details.

Restoration of an important Sarcophagus depicting a Dionysian Procession, thanks to the California Chapter

Its story

This monumental sarcophagus with the Dionysian Procession (lenòs type, shaped like a bathtub), dates back to 230 AD and was completed for a man and wife. It is characterized by elaborate decorations of high sculptural quality featuring scenes related to the myth and the cult of Dionysus, also called Bacchus. He was the playful god of fertility, nature and drink, who is credited with the creation of wine and the art of viticulture and later considered a patron of the arts and the god of the Greek stage.

Plan of the Hypogeum “Vibia” on the Via Appia (A. Ferrua). The underground “Vibia” is indicated by the letter V.

This sarcophagus was found in 1903 near the Catacombs of San Callisto, broken into 250 fragments. Using the documents in the Vatican Archive, the restoration of this object began in May 1904 under the guidance of Alberto Galli. It was intended to be put on display in the Vatican Museums. Walter Amelung, a famous German archaeologist, described in his writings the great work done on this sarcophagus by Galli, who was assisted by his son Guido, and was able to recompose all 250 fragments. Walter Amelung’s article about this restoration was published for the Pontifical Academy in 1910, accompanied by five photographs that show the sarcophagus in its first exhibition location in the Octagonal Courtyard, in front of the Venus Felix. The sarcophagus remained in the Octagonal Courtyard until the mid-1930’s when it was moved to the Pine Cone Courtyard, and where it remained until the 1960’s, before being moved again to the storage rooms and eventually into the Courtyard of the Zitella.

Grande sarcofago a vasca frammentario: thiasos bacchico, marmo bianco, da Cimitero di Calisto, Roma, Musei Vaticani, non esposto, prima del restauro, inv. 18919

Before Restoration



After Restoration

The best preserved sections of this large sarcophagus (length 2.85 cm; width 1.30 cm; height 1.31cm) are the lateral curvilinear sides, while the horizontal fronts are almost completely lost. The recent restoration has provided an opportunity to examine the dynamics that had caused such severe damage to the piece. It was discovered that the sarcophagus had been destroyed in order to obtain smaller fragments which could be then used to make lime. This object originates from an area next to the Hypogeum of Vibia on the Old Appian Way, within the complex known as the Cemetery of Balbina, where a lime kiln was built after the area was repurposed from its previous use as a cemetery. On the surface of the sarcophagus are obvious marks from chisels and mallets that broke the marble into pieces. These incisions can be seen on the long sides, the curved sides, and on the base; the marks show that the dismantling of the sarcophagus was interrupted – perhaps because the lime kiln was abandoned – and some fragments still retain traces of the fire from the furnace.

Grande sarcofago a vasca frammentario: thiasos bacchico, marmo bianco, da Cimitero di Calisto, Roma, Musei Vaticani, non esposto, prima del restauro, inv. 18919

Before Restoration



After Restoration

Its restoration

The conservation of this work was particularly complex and delicate because of the employed methods of reconstruction, and the composition of the work itself. Antonio Galli performed the restoration with an abundant use of brick and stucco to close the wide gaps, and also used several metal pins (which in the end became rusty) to anchor the fragments together. However, after more than a century, the sarcophagus appeared quite dirty and many of the fragments became almost completely detached, with the risk of further damage. As a result, the restoration involved a complex series of operations performed by the Marble Restoration Lab of the Vatican Museums and the Scientific Research Lab. The Kavaklik Company was also involved in the restoration in accord with the methodologies of our laboratories, with constant monitoring by the curators of the Classical Antiquities Department.

Grande sarcofago a vasca frammentario: thiasos bacchico, marmo bianco, da Cimitero di Calisto, Roma, Musei Vaticani, non esposto, prima del restauro, inv. 18919

Before Restoration



After Restoration

Project partners

Many thanks to the California Chaper for their support of this project, executed by the Vatican Museums. This meant the complete dismantling of the many fragments, and followed by cleaning using various methodologies, including laser ablation. Some of the fragments were scanned in 3D by the Unocad Company, in order to create the prototypes in synthetic material that could reproduce the composition of the various pieces. Unfortunately, as sometimes happens in restoration, this attempt was not suitable for the majority of the fragments and their composition. Thus, the re-assembly was performed by traditional methodologies: anchoring of the various fragments with steel pins easily reversible, and the use of resins only in cases of particular fragility, integrating with mortar and caulking where aesthetically necessary. The result of this restoration is excellent: the splendid sarcophagus – despite its incompleteness – was transferred from the Courtyard of Zitella to the Gregorian Profane Museum, especially to preserve its fragile surfaces. It remains as a testiment to our California Patrons as donors and the expertise of the Vatican Museums in their great work as conservationists. (Patrons of the Arts, November 2015)

Fighting with the Beasts in the Colosseum

Ignatius_of_AntiochRitualized, public violence had been a favorite entertainment of the Romans for centuries. The Damnatio ad bestia, “condemnation to beasts”, was a form of Roman death penalty mainly applied to the worst criminals, slaves, and early Christians, in which the condemned person was mauled to death by ferocious beasts in the amphitheatre. Such a form of execution first came to ancient Rome around the 2nd century BC and, part of the wider class of blood sports called Bestiarii, was considered entertainment for the people of Rome between the 1st to 3rd centuries AD.

800px-Wierix_-_frans_florisim1This painting representing the “Fighting with the Beasts in the Colosseum”, which has been kept in the storage of the Vatican Painting Museum, testifies to the spread of the figurative classical culture in the artistic language of Northern Europe in the 16th century. The painting is signed and dated on the base of the column where the monogram ‘HF 1563’ can be seen. The initials could identify the Flemish painter, Frans Floris (1519-1570). Frans Floris, a native of Antwerp, studied classical sculpture and works of contemporary artists in Italy, more specifically Rome, from 1541 and 1545, which is evidenced in his many drawings. Floris was particularly impressed by Michelangelo’s work in the Sistine Chapel as the Last Judgment was completed in the years when he was in Rome, as well as Raphael’s works in the Vatican Loggia. He returned to his artistic production to Antwerp, enriched by all the historical and mythological themes he had just seen. It is from this state of mind that he created this painting.

The scene shown if2s a battle between men and beasts within an amphitheatre that can be identified as the Colosseum. The composition is divided into two panels:  in the foreground a half naked man fights with a leopard and there is special attention paid to the anatomies of the man and beast in the effort of the struggle. In the background panel, the auditorium floor of the Colosseum servef3s as the backdrop to a series of small sketches, made with a rapid, but equally effective painting technique in terms of pictorial representation.  The painting became part of the Vatican Museums in 1748 from the Sacchetti Collection: on the frame there are wax stamps that confirm this provenance.

To better understand the original structure, the restorers had to clarify the previous restoration that was detected on the panel. The first phase of this restoration consisted of a careful visual analysis of the work that has enabled us to gather valuable information on the techniques that were used to create the work, and its condition.  These visual analysis’ were followed by research using data gathered by the technical lab. As a third part to the restoration undertaking, scientists launched a series of investigations consisting of noninvasive imaging that identified the constituent materials, and the materials used in previous restorations.

f4The frame and support of this work is composed of five axes of radial cut oak, horizontally mounted. The width of the first and the third axis is 21 cm, 28 cm for the second and fourth, and 29.5 for the last axis at the bottom. The axis’ are further supported by glued joints and wooden pins. The painting came to the Laboratory with a structure of support attached that was intended to reduce the movement of the painting. This support system was not the original. Over the entire surface, there is a coating of a thin transparent layer of color similar to a varnish.


fi5The main figures in this work were realized in accordance with the preparatory drawing that can be found when looking at scientific images of the painting, or more transparent areas of the painting. The figures were outlined in shimmery black pigment. All parts of the composition found in the background are rendered with transparent color, allowing the the tone of the preparatory layer to come through. In these areas one can really understand how defined and concise the preparatory drawings are. The scientific image also shows interesting modifications that were made to the original preparatory drawing. For example, the figure struggling in the foreground originally donned a loincloth (as can be seen in scientific images revealing the preparatory drawing). The elimination of the loincloth must have occurred as the artist was painting on top of the preparatory drawing

State of Conservation

f6f7The paint layers were strongly adhered to each other, though there was a thin crack in the medium of the brown color of the lion in the left of the scene. Numerous scratches are found in the center, above the figure of the man in the fight with the lion, and on the leg of the sculpture on the right corner of the scene. These scratches could be the damage that resulted from an attemptf8 to remove the old painting.  The biggest problem of this painting is the strong yellow discoloration of the present thick layer of paint. The paints inhomogeneous application has created substantial accumulations of resin that have also caused considerable trouble for the entire painting. There is also evidence of a previous restoration to the frame.


Restoration Intervention

The restoration was divided into two distinct phases:

  • Restoration of the support and realization of a support structure to control the movements of the wood.
  • Cleaning the surface of the original painting and the aesthetic presentation.

For the restoration of the support, the team for the restoration chose a course of action that would notfi12 depart from the original specifications. The bonding of the axis was done without the insertion of wooden wedges as the practice suggested in the past. A reversible restoration process also needs to be used in order to facilitate any future revisions of the bonds. Even for the support structure a ‘floating’ perimeter frame has been realized, or a structure that is not boufi10nd to the whole plank, reducing the coupling between the two structures to only a few points. The control of the expansion of the wood is entrusted to the springs, specially tuned, included in the attachment points between the chassis and axles of the painting. The cleaning of the painted surface was addressed with an extremely cautious approach since the painting techniqufi14e was characterized by extremely transparent layers of color that remained completely hiddefi11n by the yellow brown discoloration. The very compact oil that is present in the seams between the planks was first mechanically thinned to scalpel off, and to then remove with a slightly basic mixture. The touches of abrasions on the paifi13nt film, which are also resistant to solvents, were first thinned with slight abrasive action of the glass fibers and finished with the solvent mixture TACO. Before the restoration of the painting was began with brushes, the restorers removed all the soft coatings. The slots of the lesions of the support have been compensated at a base level with stucco plaster and glue. The pictorial reintegration was made with watercolors over patched areas and with glazed colors for the rebalancing of the surface. The painted surface was finally protected, with alternating passages, by spraying glossy and matte paint on top.

All of the phases of the work of this restoration have been accompanied by an imaging campaign conducted by the Scientific Research Laboratory. The frame of this painting was restored by reinforcing the angular joints, cleaning the gilding and restoration, and finishing the integration of gaps animg_evert_elzinga_05d gold abrasions. TExhibitionRome-EmperorConstantineDreamhe operation was conducted by the restorer, Marco De Pillis for the wooden portions and Stefano Tombesi for the gilding.  The restoration began in May of 2013 and was completely in February of 2015 thanks to the generosity of Rick and Lisa Altig, Chapter Leaders of the Northwest Chapter. This unique painting is now on display at De Nieuwe Kerk Amsterdam for the exhibition “Rome. Emperor Constantine’s Dream. Art Treasures from the Eternal City” that will present precious artifacts never previously displayed in the Netherlands.



Precious Ceramic Plaque by Bernard Palissy

This valuable polychrome enameled ceramic plate, restored thanks to the generosity of Mses. Veronika & Franziska Nicholson, members of the Texas Chapter,  is teaserbox_2450005363attributed to the French chemist and ceramist Bernard Palissy (1510-1589). The center of the plate displays the representation of a female figure linked to a Greco-Roman divinity image; the right hand holds a cornucopia, symbol of abundance and happiness. The left hand contains a crown which signifies a regal symbol of wealth. The figure is partially covered by drapery and is accompanied by a winged angel and surrounded by a series of rapacious flying creatures alternating with masculine faces. A herd of camels flank the border, centered by human faces which have been consumed by time and which furnish an especially elaborate decoration enhanced by a notable use of color.

attr. a Bernard Palissy (1510-1590); Piatto ovale in maiolica policroma lavorata a rilievo; sec. XVI; Musei Vaticani; Museo Missionario Etnologico; Inv. 107978

The use of the animal theme is a particular characteristic of Palissy, which is countered by a strong use of relief, almost all circular. This kind of artistic work was extremely fashionable in the 1500’s and spread throughout Europe and was particularly appreciated by the French salons. Palissy’s work was greatly esteemed by Catherine de Medici, Queen of France, to the point that she commissioned him in 1564 to design a private grotto in her garden at the Tuileries Palace in Paris.

On the back of the plate is a paper label that reads:

“Plate provenient da l’ancienne Abbaye de Bégard”

(Plate from the ancient Abbey of Bégard)



The plate was in an average state of conservation. The ceramic surface showed small breaks, lesions, chipping and loss of enamel, cracks, glue deposits and also displayed areas where the enamel was protruding from the ceramic base. The principal damage was caused by the corrosion of the three metal graphs inserted, through holes, inside the ceramic body. These were used to unite the broken areas. This was an ancient and common method of repair, called “puntatura” (pointing) used by the master potters in the past. On the back of the plate, through a small hole, a cord (now extremely frayed) had been inserted in order to hang the work on the wall. The restoration consisted in a complete photographic documentation on the condition of the work whic was done before, during and after the conservation. Also a graphic documentation was carried out, in order to record the complete process and various scientific analysis were performed by the Diagnostic Laboratory for Conservation and Restoration: these include x-ray images, infrared analysis to verify color, XRF (fluorescent X analysis), FTIR (Infrared Spectrometry analysis ). The surface was cleaned using a swab with de-ionized water and pure alcohol and the restorer, Tina Cuozzo, completed a mechanical removal of the rusted iron staffs. This caused no damage to the ceramic body. Afterwards, she proceeded with the consolidation of fractures and lesions on the ceramic using a epoxy adhesive and repairing holes with cellulose filler. The final steps of the restoration consisted in the paint reintegration of the fillings using acrylics and watercolors. As historic testimony, the decision was made to leave the paper label on the back of the plate with the text that attests to the geographic provenance.

The Palatine Flag

The Palatine Flag was the representative flag of the Palatine Honor Guard, featuring bright white on the right side and yellow on the left. At center, in sharp contrast, a coat of arms surrounded by decorations of branches, racemes and bows stands out. The upper right corner bears a large, white ribbon embellished with an inscription reading, “Palatine Honor Guard.” The Guard was a military unit of the Vatican formed in 1850 by Pope Pius IX who ordered that the two militia units of the Papal States be amalgamated. The corps, guardia-palatinaexpanded to include nearly 750 soldiers by 1860, was formed as an infantry unit and took part in keeping watch over the city of Rome. The only occasion on which it saw active service was on September 20, 1870 during the resistance to the occupation of Guardia Palatina 1940Rome by Italian government troops. The Corps, along with the Noble Guard, was abolished in 1970 by Pope Paul VI as part of the reforms of the Church following the Second Vatican Council. Former guardsmen were invited to join a new group called The Association whose statutes were approved by the Pope on April 24, 1971. This civilian association supports charitable, educational and religious programs in Rome.

Item Description/Form of Composition:

The work comprised of two identical faces sewn together along the edges. On both sides, there are two vertical bands of taffeta, flagone yellow, the other white. At the center stands the coat of arms of Gros de Tour, painted directly on the fabric, surrounded by a metal medallion containing the crossed keys and the cross of Sant’Andrea. The four corners contain foliage. The bands are sewn together in the central part of the flag with handmade string. The fringe is blocked by a seam between the two faces. The central medallion was probably replaced, as the restorer noticed residues of a previous material in the metallic yarn bordering the drawn oval medallion.

The condition of the work can be defined as poor, given the bad condition of both faces. The taffeta background is in an advanced state of decay due to various factors such as the technique of execution, frequent use, previous interventions, and the method of exhibition. The silk used in the creation of the flag shows the degredation typical of silk products loaded with mineral substances, such stiffness and cracks in the fabric. The use of the flag has naturally caused lacerations and cuts, that were treated with numerous vegetable glues (starch paste) in previous resorations. These previous interventions worsened the state of the silk. Weighed down by glue, it has become even more rigid and fragile.

Senza titoloThe ivory fabric also has dark spots probably due to the effect of localized oxidation. The lacerations and deformations are widespread across the whole surface. There are many many unrelated lacerations, that have been mended with yarns of different types (probably synthetic yarns or yarns of coarse vegetable fiber). Senza titoloThe last exhibition of the flag has worstened its condition. The artefact was nailed to display panel with metallic points, spaced between the 30 cm gold. This type of exposure has caused the fabric to fail from the top down, resulting in the formation of tears and various other lacerations and deformations around the anchorage point. Several animal exoskeletons were also found, evidence of a biological attack. The mettalic yarn is in mediocre condition. The front part, having been exposed to the environment, appears to be more oxidized than the rear, which rested on the display panel and was therefore more protected. They show evidence of slegature, pleats, embroidery and lifting-off of previous interventions performed with yellow cotton thread.


The removal of superficial dust with a controlled vacum

Thanks to the Illinois Chapter, the restoration was completed according to the future, vertical display of the work and was also conducted vertically, allowing both sides to be visible. The original silk fabric could no longer support the embroidery because of its vast state of decay. The original taffeta was, therefore, replaced and kept in storage, after a stabilizing intervention. Some fragments of the original fabric were used to test products that were to be used during the restoration. The stored silk will provide evidence of the original appearance of the work and will provide an important material on which to experiment.


The conservation of the work was carried out in the following stages:

  • Removal of dust and sampling of surface stains for diagnostic purpose
  • Removal of the metallic embroidery and separation of the two faces
  • Cleaning of the metallic embroidery and examination of its fitness
  • Preparation of the new support fabric
  • Application of the new fabric to support the embroidery
  • Application of the lining and construction of the new display


Removal of dust and sampling of surface stains for diagnostic purposes

embroiderySurface dust was removed with a micro-controlled vacum from both faces of the work. Powdered metallic yarn was removed from the bottom of the fabric. Deposits were well sampled at the GRS in the Vatican Museum to verify their composition.dep During this phase, surface stains were selected and sampled for diagnostic testing. One aim of the investigation wass to identify the composition of the metallic yarn and silk fabric and ascertain their condition. The metallic yarn was studied for corosion in order to develop a subsequent method of wet cleaning. Given the condition of the silk fabric, the diagnostic campaign was also aimed at consolidating a method of testing products on the material. Small fragments on both the front and back were used for tests. All samples and their results are included in the diagnostic analysis of this report.

Removal of the metallic embroidery and separation of the two faces

cuttingThe embroidery was removed from both faces of the flag by cutting the original fabric close to the metallic yarn with the aid of short blade surgical scissors. removingAfter removing the decorations from the rear face of the flag it was able to separate the rest of the material. As said in the description of the condition, the two parts of the flag had undergone various tie-off interventions to repair rips and tears, including the application of patches with starch glue which has inevitably saturated the fabric. Steam was applied to humidify the cold glued areas of the posterior surface and fascilitating the insertation of milinex and tissue paper under the detached fabric. positioningThis further facilitated the transport of a mock graphic made before any intervention with the embroidery. The fabric was transported and locked to a support non-woven fabric (TNT), located above the melinex, and seams were applied to bridge the gap. After removing the rear face of the flag restorers descovered twenty-five glued-on patches on the back of each side (17 on the white portion, 8 on the yellow). The patches were wetted with cold vapor to lightly reactivate the starch paste and mechanically remove the patches with steel paddles.

Cleaning of the metallic embroidery and examination of its fitness

BrushOnce separated from the base fabric, the embroidery was wet cleaned at low pressure. applicationThe cleaning system was developed alongside the GRS. The embroidery was then positioned on a low pressure table and rested on a TNT support before being humifidied by nebulized distilled water. The water was left to gently impregnate the material. The embroidery was then sponged gently with mild soap (saponin Carlo Erba diluted to 0.1 g / L in distilled water). The oxidized embroidery was brushed with an application of 5% sodium bicarbonate in distilled water. The embroidery was then rinsed several times and the water was sampled to verify that all the baking soda and soap had been remobed. The embroidery was then left on the table until it was completely dry.

Preparation of the new support fabric

arrangementThe original fabric of the flag is a taffeta and the same material, silk taffeta, was used to replace the old fabric. The same process was also repeated. The search of a fabric of new manufacture that retained the same visual characteristics as the original is not successful. The natural aging of the work, which affected both the silk metallic yarn, limited the search for the new material, as a newly manufactured fabric obviously cannot have the same appearance as the aged material. Moreover, the colors found in the current market were significantly different from the color of the original fabric. Replacing the silk with redyed material was considered essential, as it would become an obvious carryover from the ancient object. In order to preserve the image and historical accuracy of the piece, it was decided to dye the new taffeta in the laboratory. With this dye, the Tapestry restoration workshop was able to achieve a color very similar to the original that would harmoniously blend into the “patina” of the original piece.


Application of the new fabric to support the embroidery

insertingAfter the preparation of new taffeta was completed, the restorers have been able to proceed with the application of metallic embroidery. First, they reviewed the stability of the yarn and repaired the parts that needed it. The tie-off metal wires were unbound with two number 3/945 heads (in the laboratory)/ After the taffeta was found to support the embroidery, it was dyed on the back. Subsequently, the embroidery was “cleaned up” around the edged by removing the excess original fabric and placed on the new support fabric. In order to ensure the correct placement of the embroidery, the fabric was tensioned on a frame and the embroidery was positioned by referring to a grap made on melinex prior to being removed from the original fabric. In order to attache the central medalion, it was necessary to remove the fabric from the tame and streetch it on the tabletop with fabric weights. exampleThe painted portion of the central medallion was inserted after the embroidery had been reattached. The outer fringe was sewn to the front of the work and tidied by passing the repated passing of a long nylon thread. All these operations were performed separately for both faces of the flag

Application of the lining and construction of the new display

sewOnce the embroidery had been reattached on both sides of the work, restorerers finisheset about designing a new system in which the flag could be displayed, in order to ensure the visibility of the work from both the front and back. The newly designed display structure is constructed of a metal rod with two welded crossbars. The bars are the same size as the flag (ca. 120 cm) and were covered with canvas onto which was sewn bits of velcro. The back of the flag was also covered in canvas and velcro. The velcro maintains tension in the piece and allows the frame and the flag to remain two parts that are easily separated.