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.

A NEW MEMBER ON BOARD: Welcome to Martina Suozzo

One month ago we welcomed to our office Martina Suozzo. Her story with the Vatican Patrons goes way back–in the past years she worked as a digital communications and marketing consultant and now she’s back for a permanent position.



“I’m so happy to be part of this amazing team. My goal is to let the world know how precious our Patrons’ contribution to the Vatican Museums is”.


A MATTER OF LIGHT: Nine photographers in the Vatican Museums

MAY 24th – JULY 1st


Piazza del Duomo 12,

Milan, Italy


Photographs by: Bill Armstrong, Antonio Biasiucci, Peter Bialobrzeski, Alain Fleischer, Francesco Jodice, Mimmo Jodice, Rinko Kawauchi, Martin Parr and Massimo Siragusa 

Curated by Micol Forti and Alessandra Mauro 


Free entry 

The exhibition A Matter of Light. Nine Photographers in the Vatican Museums (In piena luce. Nove fotografi interpretano i Musei Vaticani), curated by Micol Forti and Alessandra Mauro and conceived by the Vatican Museums, will take place in the Palazzo Reale in Milan from 24 May to 1 July 2018. The exhibition forms part of the rich programme of events for Milan Photoweek 2018. 

Promoted and produced by the Municipality of Milan – Culture Office, Palazzo Reale and the Vatican Museums, in collaboration with Contrasto, the exhibition derives from the plan to constitute the first photographic collection within the Contemporary Art Collection of the Vatican Museums. 

To achieve the ambitious goal of creating a new collection, it was decided to offer an opportunity to reflection and experimentation: to transform an historic, social, multicultural, “ritual”, or rather, fully symbolic location such as the Vatican Museums into the object-subject of the creative work of a group of international photographers, diverse in terms of research perspectives, education, origin and style. 

“The splendid halls of the Palazzo Reale make this first presentation in a public institution even more special”, states the Assessor for Culture for the Municipality of Milan, Filippo Del Corno, “recounting in images one of the most well-known and significant museums in the world. Nine masters of photography, Italian and foreign, take an original approach to a place that is unique and precious in terms of art, history and architecture: the Vatican Museums”. 

The photographers chosen to work within the Vatican Museums are Bill Armstrong, Peter Bialobrzeski, Antonio Biasiucci, Alain Fleischer, Francesco Jodice, Mimmo Jodice, Rinko Kawauchi, Martin Parr and Massimo Siragusa. Each one of them has worked in distinct moments and on different aspects of this multiple museum, producing nine autonomous works that document and interpret the interior and architectural space of the halls, the flow of visitors and the memories that daily animate the people and spaces, the works on display and those conserved in the deposits, signs of wear and tear, and bodily traces. 

It is the first time that a Museum has commissioned a production of this type, aimed at constituting a new photographic collection inseparably linked to the museum itself, which becomes both its subject and its recipient. “To commission from a group of “voices” and “eyes” from the international art scene a sort of reportage that opens the doors of the Vatican Museums, showing them in their complexity, is a bold operation that demonstrates the vitality of a unique place, not without contradictions”, writes Barbara Jatta. 

The project A Matter of Light. Nine photographers in the Vatican Museums is intended to construct a series of pathways between imagination and memory, documentation and interpretation, composing a collection of images that may become an archive of the present, a tool for understanding and observation, a key allowing access to future studies, through visions that, though diverse, are all current and necessary in different ways. 

The exhibition is accompanied by a book edited by Edizioni Musei Vaticani and Contrasto, with essays by David Campany, Giovanni Careri, Micol Forti, Barbara Jatta, Johanne Lamoureux, and Alessandra Mauro. 

The operational costs of this exhibition were sponsored thanks to the generosity of Mr. Peter Farrell, from the  California Chapter and the NY Chapter (Carlson Estate).

and the New

Vatican Museums Press Office

Lucina Vattuone +39.06.69883041 

Contrasto Press and Communication Office 

Valentina Notarberardino +39 06 32828237; 

Municipality of Milan Press Office

Elena Conenna; 

A joint exhibition by City of Milan-Department of Culture, Palazzo Reale and Vatican Museums

Coriolanus Tapestry


Among the hills and wetlands of the central Mediterranean region of ancient Italy was a district in south Latium known as Volsci.  The people of this italic tribe shared a great animosity towards Rome, a rivalry which lasted for several hundred years until their territories were assimilated into the growing Roman republic in 300 B.C.

The notable young Roman warrior Gaius Marcius had a memorable relationship with the region; after rescuing the Roman forces attacking the Volscian town, he seized control of the Corioli populace by surprise in 493 B.C., thereby receiving his infamous last name, Coriolanus. Trying to forge ahead in political leadership, however, his inadequate temperament and inability to resolve their famine resulted in his own demise.  Quickly finding himself the target of the people’s disgust, he fled into exile and begged for shelter from the Volscian Leader, Attius Tullius. The King’s hospitality, however, was not altogether pure, for he sensed the Romans’ weakness, and smelled an opportunity for revenge…

The supplication of Coriolanius addressing the cunning King Tullius for accommodation is captured forever in wool and silken thread. In this tapestry, the left panel of a larger tapestry series, Coriolanus is pictured on the left in conversation with the king, who would have appeared in a different tapestry.  The work was completed in Paris in the workshop of Faubourg Saint-Marcel at the onset of the 17thcentury and based on drawings from 1570-1590.


At first glance, the initial state of the tapestry seemed to be satisfactory, but heavy deposits of dirt and dust were impairing the proper preservation of the natural fibers and masking some areas needing significant attention.  There were many areas where gaps had been filled in with too large of a weave, and without a backing support.  Wool threading and, therefore, texture, was found to be absent in larger portions, especially in the architectural portico in the background of the image. Also in this area, there was a lack of color saturation. In the vertical borders of the scene, silken yarn was missing, and lack of blue selvedges was observed in the horizontal borders. Holes in the fabric resided at the sites where the tapestry was hung on nails, and the material actually had remnants of varnish colors from when its frame was restored.  The linen backing covered only the perimeter portion of the piece, thus leading to significant stretching and tension over the entire surface.

To repair the canvas, there were preliminary precautions taken before the initial washing. Analysis by GRS infrared and ultraviolet documentation allowed the restorers to then remove all non-original parts.  There was a protective layer heat-sealed to the tapestry to protect the most sensitive areas so the tapestry could withstand the washing without further deterioration.

After washing with detergent and de-ionized water, the work needed to be newly framed, so that tension was correct and homogenous over the surface. Then in areas of greater void in texture, a support fabric was fixed behind, and either wool or silk was woven into the warp threads where necessary. The restorers specially dyed a connective cloth support in linen to repair the areas where the blue selvedge was completely missing. The cotton lining of the tapestry was of particular importance, whose reinforced diamond pattern allowed for a uniform weight distribution of the tapestry

The restorers were able to repair the work with their nimble hands and eliminate any tension in the work with a proper support structure. Coriolanus and the King, however, were not so fortunate in having their tensions resolved; Their power struggle, spite, and revenge are still interwoven and will remain hanging in suspense for as long as the tapestry remains hanging overhead.

The restoration of the Tapestry of Coriolanus has been completed thanks to the generosity of the Canada Chapter Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums



“Fabrics, textiles and decorative arts from sacred to profane”

15 May 2018 | 04.00 p.m.
Conference Hall, Vatican Museums

A particularly rich and dense meeting organized by the Vatican Museums for Tuesday 15 May. Indeed, three volumes, all published by Edizioni Musei Vaticani, will be introduced by the Director of the Pope’s Museums, Barbara Jatta, on the theme “Fabrics, textiles and decorative arts from sacred to profane”. “Vestire i Palazzi” (edited by Alessandra Rodolfo and Caterina Volpi), “Lusingare la vista” (edited by Adriano Amendola) – both part of the Dentro il Palazzo (Inside the Palace) series –, and “Il Papa e le sue vesti” (by Marzia Cataldi Gallo) will be presented by exceptional speakers such as Professor Antonio Paolucci, former Director of the Museums, Gail Feigenbaum, Associate Director of the Getty Research Institute, and Alessandra Rodolfo, curator of the Vatican Museums Departments of XVII-XVIII Century Art and Tapestries and Textiles.


The Vatican Museums at the Turin Book Fair

The participation of the Vatican Museums in 31st edition of the International Turin Book Fair (Lingotto Fiere 10 – 14 May 2018) has been confirmed for 2018.

In a joint exhibition stand, Edizioni Musei Vaticani and the Libreria Editrice Vaticana– the publishing houses of the Pope’s Museums and the Holy See respectively – will display not only their latest publications but also upcoming titles. The Museums, in particular, will also bring to the Fair the Catalogue of Publications 2018.

Un giorno, tutto questo” (One day, all of this) is the title chosen this year for the Fair, which has been organized around five fundamental questions: “Who do I want to be?”; “Why do I need an enemy?”; “To whom does the world belong?”; “Where do spirituality and science lead me?”; “What do I want from art: freedom or revolution?”.

Responding to the challenge of the theme of this 31st edition, the Vatican stand has been structured as an open space, permeable to ideas, depicting the two publishing houses as two semi-cylindrical tower elements opening out towards the outside, independent but complementary, symbolizing the vital and generative force of religion, the Word and the spirituality of art.