Unveiling of the Room of the Addresses

The Room of Addresses is so named because, in the 19th century, it had been the place of receiving addresses to the Holy See from all over the world (it’s not the place the Pope keeps his rolodex). Then, from the pontificate of Pope Pius XI (1922-1939) onward, the hall became a place of glorious display for a valuable collection of ivories, enamels, metal works and other artistic pieces from the same countries from which so many appeals of peace and joy had been received.

It was clear that the cabinets used to showcase these works, originally acquired over 200 years ago and meant for the library of Cardinal Zelada, were woefully inadequate for the needs of this collection. They were not designed for this purpose and therefore did not have the climate control or ease of viewership that is generally required for modern museum exhibition.

Over the past two years an extensive restoration project of these displays has been underway thanks to the generous donations of patron Joseph Incaudo, in loving memory of his wife Beatrice Maddalena (1946-2009). Thanks to his support, the treasures housed in this hall now have a more modern home, befitting their beauty and importance.

Room of the Addresses, California Chapter from Vatican Patrons of the Arts on Vimeo.

The restoration of the Room of Addresses demonstrates the ways in which patrons who devote their support to structural elements of the Vatican Museums can make a significant contribution to the overall experience of millions of visitors over the years to come. For our 2016 Wishbook, many of our donation opportunities represent these kind of large-scale improvements to the museums that assist in access or education. Keep an eye out for projects such as these in the coming months, they will maintain an important legacy for those who have the chance to patronize them.

On June 25, these crucial restorations were ready to be unveiled. His Eminence Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello (President of the Governorate of City Vatican), Antonio Paolucci (Director of the Vatican Museums), Benedetta Montevecchi (Historian) and Guido Cornini (Curator of the Department of Decorative Arts of the Vatican Museums), and our own Sara Savoldello, Romina Cometti and Camille Reyes were on hand to officially inaugurate the new displays.

The cases also facilitate a restructuring of the collection into an improved experience for viewers which allows for focused curation and a more intuitive organizational pattern for the pieces following chronological and geographical nodes.  As part of the event on the 25th, organizers also showcased restorations on the Barocchi Crucifixes, thanks to the Reas of our Michigan Patrons, as well as upcoming restoration on St. Pantaleo sponsored by the Perry Family of Ohio.


At the Conference discussing thie new display. From left to right: Benedetta Montevecchi, Antonio Paolucci, HE Card. Bertello and Guido Cornini.

At the Conference discussing thie new display. From left to right: Benedetta Montevecchi, Antonio Paolucci, HE Card. Bertello and Guido Cornini.

Curator Guido Cornini being interviewed by Televisa on the unveiling.

Curator Guido Cornini being interviewed by Televisa on the unveiling.

Viewers admiring the new display cases.

St. Pantaleo displayed in the top middle.

Viewers admiring the new display cases.

Viewers admiring the new display cases.

The Patrons Office Welcomes Our Two Summer Interns

With the Summer Equinox fast approaching (Summer sure feels like it has been here already!) and our visits on the rise, we feel so lucky to welcome some helpful hands and minds: our two summer interns! Each summer, through a highly selective process, students invested in the arts are chosen who then have the chance to volunteer at our office for 3 months.

It’s a wonderful opportunity for students to engage in the exploration of art and history as well as enrich their lives spiritually. Two new summer interns have only just arrived and are settling into their first weeks here in the PAVM office!

Catherine Shaw hails from Los Angeles, California but goes to school in New Haven, CT. This fall, she will be entering her senior year at Yale University where she studies History of Art. Last summer, Catherine worked as a museum assistant at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts of San Fernando in Madrid, Spain and is very excited to put that experience to work in our Patrons Office. During her three-month stay in Rome, Catherine is eager to explore the city and, hopefully, learn some Italian.

Parker Williams, a Nashville, Tennessee native will be starting her last semester at The University of Alabama in late August. There, she is working on her degree in Human Environmental Science with a concentration in Apparel and Textile Design. At our offices, she will help us to further develop our PAVM Facebook page, Twitter, and Instagram, along with other social media outlets. In her spare time, Parker writes two food and fashion blogs. In addition to learning to speak Italian, she will surely be inspired to expand her blogs after engaging in Roman culture.

We are so excited to have Catherine and Parker for the summer!

If Rome is one of your travel destinations this summer, make sure to stop in to say hi, and introduce yourself so we can get to know you too!

Welcome Catherine Shaw of Los Angeles and Parker Williams of Nashville.

Welcome Catherine Shaw of Los Angeles and Parker Williams of Nashville.

A 4th Century Sarcophagus Commemorating Lost Loved One and Love of God

Love can mean many things, but the Greek term “agape” is meant to convey love that is total and self giving. It is more than simple physical passion or “eros,” or “filia” friendship. Discovered in the Vatican near St. Peter’s and dating to the the Constantine era (mid 300’s A.D.), this sarcophagus, which has been called “Agape” stands a lasting testament of love both for a lost spouse and for God who watches over her in eternity.

Though inscriptions on pieces like these are rare, etched on the surface here are the words, “To my dear wife, Agape” – as well as a note commemorating the span of their relationship down to the day – “55 years, 1 month, and 5 days.” Surrounding this touching memorial are numerous architectural aspects as well as biblical scenes from the new and old testaments. These include the sacrifice of Isaac, Jonah and the whale, and many miracles of Christ.

[VIDEO} for more on this amazing piece of history watch this brief video with Christian Antiquities Curator Umberto Utro and Valentina Lini.

Sarcophagus of Agape and Crescentianus, California Chapter from Vatican Patrons of the Arts on Vimeo.

Curator of the Christian Antiquities Department, Dr. Umberto Utro, and Valentina Lini explain the project. Careful cleaning and meticulous work were able to return the piece to its original luster and will allow it to stand for all time as a beautiful monument to a loving husband who was committed to “agape” for his wife and for God. Thanks to generous donations from the California Chapter – particularly the efforts of Roberta and Howard Ahmanson for their help in restoring this treasured memorial of love and faith.

It’s easy to become a Patron! To participate in meaningful projects like this one please contact our Office and find out how to glean the benefits of membership which include special programs, private tours, and behind-the-scenes glimpses into the Vatican Museums.

Junior membership is designed for those under 35 years old and provides all the advantages of membership at a reduced rate – to learn more click here.

The Curse of Mummy-Mania: Patrons Help Unravel a Mystery Wrapped in an Enigma

Mummy Mania is not exactly a scientific term – but it accurately describes the Egyptian history craze that swept Europe after the discovery of the Rosetta Stone in 1799 (which allowed for the translation of Hieroglyphics). In the rush to supply the Egypt-a-philic art collectors and museums that popped up on the continent, tombs were ransacked and ruins were exploited. Tourists swarmed the pyramids and every visitor to Egypt wanted to come home with a genuine mummy – correspondingly, there was a booming market for forgeries.

Napoleon in Egypt Studying a Mummy, Print by E. Fiorello

Napoleon in Egypt Studying a Mummy, Print by E. Fiorello

Forgeries of mummies are nothing new – researchers say that there were faux mummies even in the time of the Pharaohs and even more when high demand when during the Middle Ages through the Renaissance they were ground up used as a powder for apothecary potions. Often smaller mummies – “mummiettes” (child or animal mummies) made the best fakes, which held, deep underneath ancient bandages, contemporary bird bones or sometimes nothing at all.

Examples of apothecary potions

Examples of apothecary potions

Two of these fake mummies were the objects of study at the most recent Vatican restorers conference held on January 22, 2015. Professor Antonio Paolucci, director of the Vatican Museums, provided an introduction and Alessia Amenta, curator of the Department of Egyptian Antiquities and the Near East followed up with analysis along with Ulderico Santamaria, head of the Laboratory of Diagnostic for the Conservation and Restoration of the Vatican Museums with his colleagues Fabio Morresi and SvevaLongo. In the curious cases of these mummies, the forgeries and techniques used to discover them were just as interesting as if they found the real things.

A Case of "Mummy-Mania" Conference including speakers: Fabio Morresi, Alessia Amenta, Antonio Paolucci, Ulderico Santamaria, and Svevo Longo (from left to right)

A Case of “Mummy-Mania” Conference including speakers: Fabio Morresi, Alessia Amenta, Antonio Paolucci, Ulderico Santamaria, and Svevo Longo (from left to right)

Thanks to the California patrons who supported this project, (particularly Juliann and Michael O’Connor) our labs were able to use X-ray fluorescence and electron microscopes to discover the chemical elements of materials, and infrared and ultraviolet analyses revealed colors and images hidden to the naked eye. Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry identified the presence of organic compounds and the project was topped off with CT-scans to create 3D images of the contents.  These analyses revealed the presence of zinc and tin in the paints and a metal laminate used to create false aging. Then “multiplanar reconstruction” of hundreds of CT-scan images pieced together revealed a 19th century nail that could not have been seen on the initial X-ray. Also, with carbon dating, restorers found that the bones wrapped inside were actually adult bones from the middle ages.

Fig. 3

Fake Mummy Undergoing “TAC” restoration © Musei Vaticani

The way these forgeries were crafted has been at least as much of a mystery as the riddle of true ancient Mummies. The conference on January 22, 2015 not only revealed strides in how to identify fakes, but also sparked discussion on the merit of these forgeries as works of historical record and even pieces of genuine 19th century artistic ingenuity.

“The Mummy Project” is an ongoing one at the Vatican which boasts a truly impressive collection of genuine mummies some of which have had the benefit of restoration due to our generous patrons.

For more on the Mummy Mania conference: http://mv.vatican.va/3_EN/pages/z-Info/MV_Info_Conferenze.html

For more on becoming a Vatican Museums Patron

Photo of Child Mummy Before Restoration © Vatican Museums

Photo of Child Mummy Before Restoration © Vatican Museums

Fake Mummy, Inv. 5783 © Musei Vaticani

Fake Mummy, Inv. 5783, before restoration © Musei Vaticani

APLAR 5 Conference: Lasers and Art Restoration

Brochure from APLAR event giving details on the technology being used.The APLAR  5 Conference, which occurred September 18-20th, demonstrated  the further  role advanced lasers can play in the world of art restoration. Special thanks to our California, D.C., and Florida Chapters for their help in securing laser technology for the Vatican that is the envy of the museum community.  For more on the conference or to apply for abstracts see their website here.

See the full brochure here.

Glorious Globes: Two 17th Century Painted Globes

Two Globes crafted by G.J. Blaeu (1571-1638) were transferred in the Paper Restoration Lab in 2008 to be painstakingly restored.  One is the globe of the earth while the other shows the 48 constellations as cited by Ptolemy. The two papier-mâché globes are covered in painted incised paper. See the pictures of the process needed to restore them here.

Blaeu was a student of famous astronomer Tycho Brahe, and made the artistry of globes and maps his whole life.  In 1599, he founded a printing press dedicated to the manufacturing of globes,  as well as nautical and scientific instruments. In 1625, he founded the Blaviana Office in Amsterdam, the official map maker for the Indian Company. His most famous work is the Theatrum Orbis Terrarum sive Atlas Novus, published in two volumes in 1635 was reprinted many times until 1655. One interesting facet of the pieces, two globes were continually “updated” with copper as new discoveries were made.

In the Diagnostic Lab, the globes was analyzed through reflectography, photographic documentation with UV fluorescence, analysis of the pigments and stratigraphic analysis.  Restorers studied the components order to define typology and to identify the process and technique with which it was assembled. There are few documents about these globes, so they had to collecting information on other similar globes located in Museums in Bologna and Florence in order to track down the history of these beautiful works of art. Thank you to our California Chapter for helping us to keep preserve treasures like these.

Antonio Paolucci, Director of the Vatican Museums, in the restoration labs with the Blaeu Globes

Antonio Paolucci, Director of the Vatican Museums, in the restoration labs with the Blaeu Globes