MEET THE MAN WITH THE KEYS TO THE VATICAN

Every morning Gianni Crea unlocks the doors to history.

“The real privilege is being able, every day, to walk through this and each day learn something new,” says Gianni Crea, head key keeper of the Vatican Museums. “You’re walking through history and you read lessons that all the popes to this date have preserved.”

The Gallery of Statues and the Hall of Busts showcase works like the Sleeping Ariadne and frescoes painted by Pinturicchio. PHOTOGRAPH BY ALBERTO BERNASCONI, MUSEI VATICANI

“Each morning when I enter the Sistine Chapel I experience a string of emotions,” Crea says. PHOTOGRAPH BY ALBERTO BERNASCONI, MUSEI VATICANI

Can’t make it to the Museums this summer? You can still take a behind the scenes look at the man who opens the collections to the 28,000 daily visitors with Gulnaz Khan of National Geographic.

Khan offers a striking profile on Gianni Crea, the head key keeper at the Vatican Museums, detailing the clavigero’s unique perspective on the beauty and significance of the works he watches over. As a devout Catholic, Crea deeply understands the power and special mission of art in faith.

With complete humility, he states “I’m a simple custodian, but for me the beautiful thing is to conserve and look after the keys of history” as he enables guests from all different cultures and religions to find something moving within the collections.

“I know the smell that is waiting for me when I open the first door is the smell of history—the smell that men before us have breathed in.” It’s the very same ground that they have walked, loved, and cried on, he says.

“I have the keys, figuratively speaking, of the history of Christianity—both Christian history and the history of art,” Crea says. “The Vatican Museums, including the Raffaello Rooms and the Sistine Chapel, are among the most beautiful works of art in the world.” PHOTOGRAPH BY ALBERTO BERNASCONI, MUSEI VATICANI

If you want to read more visit the following link:

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/travel/destinations/europe/vatican-city/key-keeper-vatican-museums-photos/?cmpid=org=ngp::mc=social::src=facebook::cmp=editorial::add=fbp20180707travel-newmankeysvatican::rid=&sf193274793=1

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reopening with new layout of the Saint Paul archaeological area

On the eve of the Solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul, and exactly five years since its first inauguration in 2013, the archaeological area of the Monks’ Orchard of Saint Paul Outside-the-Walls will complete a long and complex musealisation project, reopening to the public with a new layout, particularly functional and evocative in terms of the museographic and lighting solutions adopted.

In offering to pilgrims and tourists, in an unprecedented and precious look at medieval Rome, the reopening of the site constitutes the concluding moment of an important and complex conservation, restoration and enhancement project that has involved the fruitful interdisciplinary collaboration of various institutional actors, from the Administration of the Papal Basilica as promoter, to the Vatican Museums via the Department of Christian Antiquities and the Conservator’s Office, from the Pontifical Institute of Christian Archaeology to the School for Specialisation in Architectural and Landscape Heritage of “La Sapienza” University of Rome, as well as the Superior Institute for Conservation and Restoration.

The definitive musealisation project involved the completion of the restoration and cleaning of the ancient walls, and of the floor, wall and ceiling surfaces, the production of more structured lighting systems, the improvement of didactic materials, the in situ display of materials discovered during the excavation, the construction of a boardwalk with elements in crystal and steel and, last but not least, the organization of an ordinary maintenance service for the site to prevent its deterioration and to ensure conservation over time, always with the minimal use additional signs and the adoption of the criterion of minimal intervention.

Useful Links: www.basilicasanpaolo.org

 

At the Table with the Gods. Illustrated Plates from the Carpegna Collections

July 4th, 2018
Sala XVII, Pinacoteca

Following the culmination of the Metal Restoration Laboratory and the Vatican Museums Ceramics Department’s careful restoration work, a precious set of illustrated ceramic plates from the Carpegna Collection can be admired before it soon joins a permanent collection. This special exhibit will open for the summer season on July 4th and will be located in the prestigious Vatican Pinacoteca in Room XVII, which has hosted the prior original initiatives of the Museums at Work expositions.

This “little exhibit,” titled At the Table with the Gods. Illustrated Plates from the Carpegna Collection, is curated by Guido Cornini and is based on a previously successful format, established through The Pope’s Museums. The exposition also serves as a lively workshop for study and research, aiming to communicate and enhance the knowledge and the many daily activities within the Museums. Among the pieces in the collection, are thirty-three out of thirty-four illustrated majolica ceramics, which joined the Decorative Arts Department of the Vatican Museums in 1999 from the old collections of the Apostolic Library.

This set of historically and artistically valuable artifacts were made in the late sixteenth century by the skilled majolica masters of Urbino based on designs by painters from the school of Raphael. Although they are some of the most fascinating seventeenth-century collectibles, they constitute one of the least noted chapters.

Four large thematic groups can be identified in the designs and decorations that characterize the precious set of ceramics. They range from biblically inspired scenes, portraying stories from the Old Testament and the Gospels, to mythological depictions, treating both literary and allegorical topics.

The Carpegna plates collection display is a project sponsored by Mr. & Mrs. Carey of the California Chapter 

The Patrons Office Welcomes Three Summer Interns

For the next three months, our office will host three interns to assist us during the busy summer season. Each of the interns has been assigned a project reflecting their interests and will receive guidance from the staff member they are working with most closely. They will all have the opportunity to engage with the vast collections of the Vatican museums, and grow professionally and spiritually in their positions.

Harriet Fink, Catherine Johnson and Zoe Romanoski

Zoe Romanoski is originally from Tucson, Arizona and recently graduated from the University of Notre Dame this past May of 2018. She has a double major in I.T. Analytics & Operations, and Art History, which she hopes will be instrumental to her internship as she works to create a comprehensive database for PAVM. Zoe could not be happier to be back in Rome, having studied abroad here for the spring semester of 2017, and developed a fervent admiration of Italian language, food, music, and art. This summer, Zoe is most looking forward to observing how the Vatican Museums operate from a business perspective, especially regarding the role of the patrons in preserving the Vatican’s timeless masterpieces.

“Thus far the PAVM internship has been nothing short of astonishing- we enter our place of work through the colonnade arms of St. Peter’s and I can’t help but gape at Bernini’s immense accomplishment. Everyday mundane tasks are turned extraordinary as us interns run errands through the Apostolic Palace, or across the Vatican Gardens. It is truly evident that we are amidst some of the greatest minds the world ever knew. I love noting the Barberini bees of Pope Urban VIII on my favorite artworks, and having the opportunity to explore previous restoration projects with my fellow interns. Each day is better than the last, and I cannot wait to see what else the internship has in store for us!”

Catie Johnson is from Atlanta, Georgia and will complete her final year at Auburn University in the fall. At Auburn, she is majoring in marketing with a minor in nonprofit and philanthropy. Catie plans to attend graduate school after graduation and following graduate school, she hopes to obtain a job working for a nonprofit organization. Catie is extremely excited to implement not only her marketing skills, but also her knowledge of nonprofit organizations during this summer internship. While she has been to Rome many times with her family, Catie has never been able to explore Rome by herself and for such a length of time. She could not be more excited to be in one of her favorite cities doing something that she truly has a passion for!

“I was extremely excited to walk into work on the first day but really did not know what to expect. I was blown away with the joy and kindness that all of the employees have not only for their work, but also each other. When you walk into this office it is very clear that all of these women (and Fr. Kevin) have so much passion for the PAVM and all of the people that work for the organization. The other two interns, Zoe and Harriet, and I have had the best first week and I am so excited to see all of the things that we will be able to experience and learn for the next month and a half. Just being able to skip the tour lines was crazy for me…and that is only the beginning!”

Harriet Fink, a Washington D.C. native, will be starting her senior year at the University of Notre Dame in late August. In South Bend, she studies Philosophy and Medieval Studies. She spent the previous semester at the University of Bologna and hopes to continue improving her Italian. Harriet is looking forward to living in a new city and exploring all of the incredible collections at the Vatican Museums. This summer she will be helping our office compile restoration information about past Wishbook projects for an updated website as well as complete some translation work.

“Every morning my walk to work is a completely surreal experience as I bypass the interwoven lines of thousands of tourists waiting to enter the museums. It has been a fantastic experience so far to meet Patrons coming from all over the world and even tag along on some of their tours. I really appreciate the chance to work in an office that genuinely cares about its interns. The other interns and I are all very excited to be working on projects that are tailored to our interests as well as have the opportunity to see how the museums function from an insider’s perspective. It’s truly a humbling experience to not be able to look around without seeing beautiful art or architecture. At the end of each day, I descend Giuseppe Momo’s spiral staircase, which depicts the hundreds of years of history of the museums, thinking about how grateful I am to intern here. This will certainly be a formative experience for me, and I know it’s going to be difficult to leave at the end of the summer!”

We are happy to welcome our three interns and hope that if you have a chance to visit our office in Rome this summer, you can come by and introduce yourself!

THE SOUND OF ART

The Office of the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums was pleased to host a group of patients from the Bambino Gesù Hospital, a children’s hospital located in Rome under the administration of the Holy See. Our guests, ranging in ages from 3 to 10, gathered in the Vatican Museums with their siblings and parents for a day of summer camp fun. The Vatican in collaboration with the hospital aimed to provide a day of reprieve for these children who suffered from some form of disability, particularly regarding visual impairments. The children were able to participate in activities that largely incorporated sensory stimulation. They gathered leaves and sticks in the Vatican Gardens, physically interacted with statues and busts in the Museo Gregoriano Profano, and even took a “magic carpet” ride—a mechanism that radiated vibrations from music so those hearing-impaired guests could dance along. Our interns had the opportunity to observe as the children played with sound effects of a dinner party. The children erupted into giggles and clapping as the sounds mimicked a kiss, a breaking plate, and even a burp! Soon after, it was revealed the relevance of the sounds was in connection to the floor mosaic below their very feet, the “Asàrotos òikos” mosaic that is scattered with images of a dirty floor left over in an ancient banquet hall. Through the cohesion of various sensory activities (sight, touch, and sound) that are integral to the experience of artifacts in the Vatican Museums, we hope that the children were able to gain an appreciation for that which is housed within our walls.

Project sponsored by the Italian and International Chapter of the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums, Robyn & Kingsley Mundey and organized by Doctor Isabella Salandri – Public Relations Officer of the Vatican Museums.

 

 

FRAGMENT OF A SARCOPHAGUS

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. 

Spend a Sunday at the Villas of Castel Gandolfo!

April – October 2018

From April to October, with the exception of the months of July and August, the Pontifical Villas of Castel Gandolfo will welcome visitors also on a Sunday. With the arrival of the warmer season, the special Sunday opening (from 10.00 a.m. to 15.00 p.m. with last entry at 14.00 p.m.) offers a unique opportunity to organize an out of town trip with all the family, and to be immersed in artistic treasures, beautiful landscapes and the food and wine of the Castelli Romani.

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

“AUSTRALIA. The Vatican Museums indigenous collection”

29 May 2018
Raphael Hall, Pinacoteca, Vatican Museums

On Tuesday 29 May, six years after the inauguration of the new permanent exhibition dedicated to Australia within the Anima Mundi Museum, the Vatican Museums will present “Australia. The Vatican Museums indigenous collection”, curated by Katherine Aigner, the third catalogue in the series of texts on the ethnological collections of the Pope’s Museums, available in Italian and English, and co-published by Edizioni Musei Vaticani andAboriginal Studies Press.

The volume begins with the history of the creation of the Collection, which now comprises around 300 pieces whose origins date back to the first donations made to Pius XI by the Aborigines of Australia. The culture of the faraway continent is examined in its multiple aspects through contributions from authoritative scholars of diverse cultural extraction, and each individual part of the catalogue has been produced in close contact with the aboriginal communities, in accordance with the philosophy of “reconnection” that characterizes both the recent history of the oceanic territory, and the section of the Vatican Museums that houses the ethnological collections.

Indeed, “reconnection” is the key word of this publication, innovative within its genre, and it is the concept around which the process has developed that has allowed the works to be reconnected with their communities of origin, creating a form of intergenerational dialogue from which entirely current themes have emerged, dear also to Pope Francis, such as the importance of the earth, the law and culture, and the conservation of cultural heritage.

The Anima Mundi Museum is not currently accessible to the public as important renovation works are being carried out, but some works from the Australian Aboriginal Collection will be exceptionally on view on the occasion of the catalogue presentation.

Focus on publications of the Vatican Museums

22 May 2018
Conference Hall, Vatican Museums

Vatican Museums Publications will be the undisputed protagonist of the conference to be held on Tuesday 22 May in the presence of the director of the Pope’s Museums, Barbara Jatta, the Director of the Publications Office Federico Di Cesare, and the Director of the Library, Cristina Pantanella.

The introduction by Barbara Jatta, which will focus on the characteristics and the role of the scientific and educational publishing of the Vatican Museums both inside and outside the museum institution, will be followed by an intervention by Federico Di Cesare, offering a brief historical summary of the various publishing activities and organizational and management decisions that have led to the birth of a fully-fledged publishing house, with registered trademark, within the Museums: Edizioni Musei Vaticani. The meeting will also constitute a formal occasion for the presentation of the 2018 edition of the Catalogue of Publications.

The conference will also include a presentation by Cristina Pantanella of the latest Bollettino dei Monumenti Musei e Gallerie Pontificie (XXXIV edizione) [Bulletin of the Monuments, Museums and Pontifical Galleries (XXXIV edition)] and a detailed illustration of its content. The Bulletin, along with its history and evolution from 1977 to the present day, will be examined during the meeting, with special attention to the scientific contributions received in each edition and their high cultural value.