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.

Perseus Unveiled: The Northwest Chapter and Their Hero

This April, our friends from the lush Northwest U.S. came to visit and had an experience they will never forget. The beautiful springtime of Rome was the perfect backdrop for the unveiling of Perseus and a spiritual and cultural connection that can only be found here in the Vatican.

Also, while they were here, the NW Chapter members were also able to witness the fruits of their donations. Together we celebrated the unveiling of a spectacular Perseus statue, which their support helped restore. Vatican Museums director Antonio Paolucci thanked the Northwest Chapter in the Octagonal Courtyard saying that, “ The Northwest is a new chapter, but a very lively one.” And he praised their devotion to the Perseus.

The statue is a particularly glorious piece made by one of the masters of Italian sculpture, Antonio Canova. In the late 18th and early 19th century Canova became well known as the finest sculptor of his generation. His ability and talents, particularly in rendering the human form, were unparalleled by any contemporary.

Perseus Unveiled, photo by Gabe Hanzeli.

This Perseus is the epitome of his Neoclassical style that looked to antiquity for inspiration. The statue was purchased soon after its creation by Pope Pius VII Chiaramonti (1800-1823) who displayed it on the pedestal in place of the Apollo of the Belvedere which had been taken to France following the Treaty of Tolentino. It had similar weight, proportions and expressive characteristics of the statue of the famous Belvedere Apollo (itself an inspiration for Michelangelo and so many sculptors, including Canova).

There is an ironic artistic witticism hidden in this piece that goes along with Canova’s desire to take subjects of antiquity and cast a more modern spin on the subject matter. In this case, the story of the demi-god Perseus is that he avoided being turned to stone by chopping off the head of the Gorgon, Medusa. However, here he appears cast in stone as though his trial came to a less positive end. This is a conscious act of Canova who challenges antiquity with his cleverness and skill.

When the Apollo was returned to the Vatican, Perseus took up residence in a new place between statues of Two Pugilists (also by Canova), perhaps as a nod to a man who fought valiantly in the annals of Greek mythology.

(And for a glimpse into life inside the restoration with Andrea Felice, see this video!)

Perseus, Northwest Chapter from Vatican Patrons of the Arts on Vimeo.

The meticulous and painstaking restorations took over three years to be fully completed. Guy Devreux, Head of the Museums’ Marble Restoration, explained that it was thanks to the patrons that it is possible for restorers to perform such “extraordinary work.” He went on to say that, “The fact that the restoration takes a long time isn’t because it’s going slowly, but our respect, love and professionality that wants to make sure the final result is great.” Today, the true beauty of the piece could be restored and maintained for the future. We are so grateful to the Northwest Chapter and the Altig family for all their help and very pleased that so many of their representatives could be here to witness the unveiling.

Ask the Northwest Patrons who were in attendance or take a look at some of our pictures on our Facebook group and Snapfish album– to see just how amazing of an experience this was. We hope to see you soon and to let you see just how glorious the Perseus is in person!

The Northwest Chapter in front of Perseus and the Pugilists. Photo by Gabe Hanzeli

The Northwest Chapter in front of Perseus and the Pugilists. Photo by Gabe Hanzeli.

In the Swiss Guard Barracks after their training. Photo by Gabe Hanzeli.

In the Swiss Guard Barracks after their training. Photo by Gabe Hanzeli.

Guy Devreux, Head of the Museums’ Marble Restoration and Restorer of the project, Andrea Felice.

The artwork ‘Perseus with the Head of Medusa' by Italian sculptor Antonio Canova (1757-1822) is exhibited after restoration at the Vatican Museum, in Vatican City, April 30, 2015. ANGELO CARCONI

The artwork ‘Perseus with the Head of Medusa’ by Italian sculptor Antonio Canova (1757-1822) is exhibited after restoration at the Vatican Museum, in Vatican City, April 30, 2015. ANGELO CARCONI

In front of the Perseus in the Octagonal Courtyard. From L to R: Lisa Altig, Andrea Felice, Antonio Paolucci, and Rick Altig.

In front of the Perseus in the Octagonal Courtyard. From L to R: Lisa Altig, Andrea Felice, Antonio Paolucci, and Rick Altig.

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.

Standing Tall – The Intricately Inscribed Marble Base

A few weeks ago we mentioned the completion of restorations on a Statue of the Dacian Prince from the Trajan Forum in 113 A.D.  While restorations on the prince are completed, restorers now begin work on the marvelous base with which that sculpture has been associated. Though the prince is spectacular, the base is also stunning and historically intriguing, with an intricate inscription that requires careful cleaning and attention from our restorers. Now, thanks to the support of the Junior Illinois Patrons, this integral project has begun.

On March 18, the Junior Patrons (made up of members under 35 years old) hosted their second annual “Illinois Associates Night Out” which included an unveiling, and engaging discussion about their excitement for the good works ahead involving the marble base.  The base was actually not originally created for the Dacian Prince – it was made in the 5th century and the inscription reads that it once supported a statue of Acilius Glabrio Sibidius who had important government roles in Greece, Campania and west Gallia. However, this base and the Dacian prince have been connected for centuries. 

The pieces are usually housed in the Chiaramonti gallery, however it is important for us to maintain the vision and verisimilitude of this space, crafted by famed Antonio Canova who constructed it in the 19th century. Therefore, prince and base will only come on display when restorations are fully complete on corresponding pieces of similar construction so that the full experience is recreated.

Are you under 35 and want to get involved? Junior membership is designed especially for you and includes the same rewards as full members at a reduced rate. It’s easy to become a patron (particularly a Junior Patron) and the perks are amazing! Click here for more information.

Don’t miss your chance to win with the Patron’s Junior Membership GIVEAWAY – More details here.

{See this striking video for more information on the base and the history of the Chiaramonti on Vimeo}

5th Century Marble Base, Illinois Junior Patrons from Vatican Patrons of the Arts on Vimeo.

If you would like to know more about this project and the others associated with the Chiaramonti go to our Wishbook.

Canadian Patrons Help Restore Pinturicchio’s “Secret” Borgia Apartments

The Borgia Apartments were sealed off by Pope Pius III after the death of Pope Alexander VI, Rodrigo Borgia, (1431-1503) (due to their association with the scandalous Borgia family). For nearly 400 years the sumptuous art within sat in wait.

Then, in 1889, Pope Leo XII reopened the rooms for restoration revealing an overwhelming trove of artistic riches. The apartments were discovered to be filled to the brim with astonishing frescos by the Italian painter Bernardino di Betto, also known as Pinturicchio – who worked on them with a team of apprentices between 1492-1494. Intricate stucco work adorns the walls and vaults while accentuating the paintings, saturated with vivid reds and blues.  The halls are considered a masterpiece in design. Themes of the works adorning the walls are from medieval encyclopedia and celebrate the supposed divinity of the Borgias.

In this short and telling video, Romina Cometti and Marco Pratelli guide us through current restorations and expand on the importance of the particularly impressive pieces in “The Hall of the Liberal Arts”. The frescos in here are mainly allegorical with scenes of anthropomorphized “lunettes” including the idealized embodiments of rhetoric, music, astrology and so on. These important restorations are made possible because of a generous donation by the Canadian Chapter of Patrons.

Because of the distinction of the color palette of these frescos, the stark contrast between those portions that have undergone the careful cleaning process and those that await restoration is striking. Much of the damage came from soot and candle smoke from the time when the apartments were under use, but with careful attention to detail, restorers can return the frescos to their original and glorious  luster. One can almost imagine the gatherings of wealthy patrons mingling in candlelight while the frescos looked on.

An interesting development involves recent restorations of another room in the apartments (The Hall of Mysteries of the Faith) which revealed – under a layer of dirt – what is believed to be the very first European depiction of Native Americans! Painted in 1494, only two years after the voyage of Columbus. The figures appear in the background of Pinturicchio’s spectacular “Resurrection.”

For more on these fascinating artistic treasures and the secrets of the Borgia apartments don’t miss these videos:

Borgia Apartments “Room of the Liberal Arts” Part 1, Canada Chapter from Vatican Patrons of the Arts on Vimeo.

Borgia Apartment Part 2, Canada Chapter from Vatican Patrons of the Arts on Vimeo.

The duty of the Patrons is a sacred one in preserving our artistic history. If you’d like to participate in the restoration of these or similar pieces at the Vatican Museums contact your local chapter of the Patrons Office.

Perseus in All His Glory- Restoration Update, Almost Fully Restored

Thanks to the support of the Northwest Chapter, and that of Mr. & Mrs. Altig, we have been able to reach the very end of a restoration for one of the museums most beautiful pieces of statuary.

Antonio Canova (1757 – 1822) is one of the most important Italian sculptors of all time. His masterpiece, this Perseus, (finished in 1801) is characterized by classical beauty and a return to renaissance line and posing. The demi-god hero is seen here brandishing the severed head of Medusa, while wearing the helmet of Pluto (which had the power of invisibility), the winged sandals of Mercury, and the diamond sword given to him by Vulcan.

Pope Pius VII not only purchased the glorious statue, but later gave Canova the coveted title of Inspector General of Fine Arts securing his immortality. His Perseus was even displayed on the pedestal of the great “Apollo of the Belvedere” which had been taken to France following the Treaty of Tolentino. It had been the weight, proportions and expressive character of the Belvedere Apollo which had inspired Canova to create Perseus in the first place – so this was a fitting tribute to a great work of art.

Perseus, Northwest Chapter from Vatican Patrons of the Arts on Vimeo.

While restorations on the statue are complete – It is, however, this pedestal which requires the most attention and has slowed the process of getting him back to display. Because of the dynamic rotation and angle of the sculpture’s weight, lead restorer Andrea Felice had to reconstruct the base. This newly designed pedestal enables our hero to remain stating even in the face of vibrations from possible earthquakes.

Look out for more information on Perseus and when he will be back on full display in the Museums. For now, you have to be a patron to see him!

For more on becoming a patron email your local chapter leader.

SFONDRATI COLLECTION: Sfondrati’s Excavation and the Unique Vessels Used to House the Relics

When Cardinal Sfondrati excavated beneath the altar at St. Cecilia in the fall of 1599, included in his discoveries were the body of the Saint as well as relics from other martyrs and popes. The most sacred of these were reconsecrated in the ground under the altar, however many pieces were transferred at the time to repurposed and beautifully adorned silver vessels. These have been painstakingly restored thanks to the support of the Ohio Chapter of Patrons and work by restorer Barbara Pinto Folicaldi.

[Behind-the-scenes with amazing silverwork]

The Collection of Cardinal Sfondrati from Vatican Patrons of the Arts on Vimeo.

[Behind-the-scenes with amazing silverwork]

It is interesting to note that the silver bowls and cups used to house these religious relics were originally “profane” in origin and likely domestic pieces that would have been used at an official banquet. However, they were so treasured, that in the hands of craftsmen in the 1600s these were consecrated and adorned with religious symbology to be made appropriate resting places for the ashes of sanctified relics.

These pieces were then in the custody of St. Cecilia until the early 20th century when they were brought to the Vatican Museums.

{Guido Cornini, Curator of the Decorative Arts Department, gives you more information on the restoration of these beautiful reliquaries now housed in the “Room of the Tributes” in the Vatican Museums….}

See our other restoration videos on our website by clicking here!

The Sacred in the Profane – Mythological Statues in The Gregorian Profane Museum Restored

The Profane Museum, founded by Clement XIII in 1761 was the first gallery in the Vatican dedicated to the display of the ancient “profane” pieces. These included pagan art as well as “domestic” instruments (cameos, ivory, rock crystal and small bronzes). The museum underwent a large overhaul when a new entrance was constructed and many pieces were given a course of restoration at that time thanks to the efforts of the Michigan Chapter.

Mythological Statuettes Part 1, Michigan Chapter from Vatican Patrons of the Arts on Vimeo.

{See the video for more on these wonderful works and how they were retooled in the 18th century!}

Pieces depicted in the video include works from the 2nd to 5th century, many from Roman houses and some amazing artifacts from Pompeii and Herculaneum. In the 1700s several of these pieces, that had been part of a large collection owned by Cardinal Carpegna, were repurposed and adorned with golden appointments by the artist Valadier .The preserved state of these artifacts is amazing! Let restorer Claudia Legga walk you through these meticulously restored pieces. Again, many thanks to the Michigan Chapter for their support in this effort.

Mythological Statuettes, Part 2, Michigan Chapter from Vatican Patrons of the Arts on Vimeo.

{Ms. Legga continues your tour of the “profane” artifacts…}

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Three Crosses Restored Thanks to Our Michigan Chapter

Restorations are complete on three beautiful crucifixes!In 2007, Carlo and Lucia Barocchi donated three exquisite crosses to Pope Benedict XVI. One was a 14th century copper crucifix of the “archaic” style, a second in gilded silver was from the 17th century and a third (the oldest) dates back to the late middle ages. After being put in our Wishbook a restoration of these pieces was supported by Tony and Suzanne Rea of the Michigan Chapter. The spectacular final results are due to their patronage and the efforts of our wonderful restorers of the Decorative Arts Department.

Barocchi Crucifixes Collection, Michigan Chapter from Vatican Patrons of the Arts on Vimeo.

Bernini Angel Update

Bernini Angels UPDATE! Restorations continue on one of the Vatican’s prized possessions. Find out why these beautiful Bernini Angels were scheduled to be burned by clicking here!

Bernini Angel, New York Chapter from Vatican Patrons of the Arts on Vimeo.

For more restoration updates check out our behind-the-scenes videos here.