‘Preventive conservation’ in Venetian palace

VENICE, Italy (AP) — Venice art restorers are embarking on an ambitious monitoring project to analyze precious artworks and elaborate embellishments and make early interventions at a landmark Venetian palace that was at the heart of political life in the powerful maritime Republic of Venice.

The project at the Doge’s Palace, carried out by Venice’s Fondazione Musei Civici, began in June and will last about 14 months as restorers examine every inch of the surfaces of the palace – known as Palazzo Ducale – which contains some of the world’s most magnificent works of art, including paintings by Tintoretto and Titian.

The Italian government has provided €500,000 in funding for the project.

Using mobile scaffolding so they can work on small batches at a time and leave the space open to visitors, restorers climb back and forth each day up a series of ladders to the ceilings where their tools include soft brushes and sprayers.

In the Chamber of the Grand Council, one of the largest paintings in the world, Tintoretto’s “Il Paradiso” of about 150 square meters (1,600 square feet), restorer Alberto Marcon maps the surface centimeter by centimeter (inch by inch). the decayed parts requiring intervention or restoration.

The information will later go to a database that will help the team decide not only where to intervene with minor surgeries or where a greater conservation effort is needed, but also track the conservation status of the artwork over time.

Across the room, another restorer works on an elaborate frieze around the ceiling, dusting the painting, looking for peeling paint and decay. In the nearby Hall of Ten, a restorer carefully sprays glue into the gold-painted wooden decorations to protect them from decay.

The project’s director, architect Arianna Abbate, explains that a project that makes art monitoring a top priority, giving it a lot of time and money, is almost unheard of. Such ‘preventive conservation’ could well be ‘the new frontier of conservation’, she says, standing on the jetty next to ‘Il Paradiso’.

Abbate says their primary work is visual and tactile, but it also includes monitoring with magnetomaterial, endoscopic, photographic and multispectral techniques.

In some cases, the decay is so severe that they must intervene immediately. So the team set up a temporary studio in the Doge’s private chapel where restorers can work on the individual paintings.

Once the whole job is complete, other groups, such as the American non-profit organization Save Venice, will step in to help fund any further recovery deemed necessary.

The humidity and salt water in Venice, a 1,600-year-old city built on a lagoon with its ancient palaces connected by canals, is particularly hard on architecture and artwork. The Doge’s Palace is located on the edge of St. Mark’s Square, overlooking the lagoon with a canal running along the side.

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