The restoration project

The phases of fresco recovery

The phases of fresco recovery (Arcadia Ricerche, 2009)

The research project for the conservation and interdisciplinary study of the fresco has pursued several objectives:

  • the recovery of the painting;
  • the activation of an interdisciplinary research path;
  • the development of a new methodological procedure;
  • the development of a training program for undergraduate and doctoral students in the scientific and humanistic fields.

The recovery of the painting has made it possible to return to the city in a usable form an asset that was in an insufficient state of conservation. The intervention was conducted by Dr. Elena Dal Moro and was divided into the following phases:

  • bezel removal, i.e. manual removal of all the layers of paint superimposed on the fresco;
  • consolidation of the painted plaster to avoid the further detachment of portions of the painted surface;
  • removal of mortars and cements applied during previous maintenance work;
  • static consolidation of exposed masonry;
  • cleaning the pictorial surface;
  • neutral integration of gaps;
  • pictorial reintegration with watercolors through veiling or rivulets.

The restoration was carried out in conjunction with a complete interdisciplinary research path, which benefited both the University of Padova and the city of Padova in general.

First of all, the mural painting was the object of a study from the historical and iconographic point of view, which allowed the contextualization of the work not only within the architectural complex of S. Caterina, but also with respect to the part of the historical center in which the building is inserted, an area that goes from the church of the Eremitani to the complex of San Francesco.

The fresco was then analyzed from a scientific point of view, through an investigation aimed at knowledge:

  • of the materials making up the painting and, in particular, of the pictorial palette and the plasters;
  • the executive technique of the artist;
  • the factors of degradation;

that supported the operational phase of the restoration and through which new information was learned about the artistic workshops active in Padova in the 17th century.

The coexistence, within the research project, of historical and scientific approaches has proved to be the occasion for the application of a methodological procedure that should always be applied in the conservation field and that too frequently is resolved only in the intervention phase in the strict sense. 

For studies and scientific investigations, the University's internal resources have been used, with the involvement of the departments of History of Visual Arts and Music, Chemical Sciences and Information Engineering (Guido Cortelazzo); for some optical investigations, the firm Arcadia Ricerche of Venice was engaged.

This path has led to the promotion of the educational activity of students at the University of Padova, such as undergraduates, PhD students and young researchers belonging to the research group of Chemistry of Cultural Heritage at the Department of Chemical Sciences, enriching their cultural path through the introduction to the academic research activity and, at the same time, the inclusion in the work context characteristic of the restoration site. In fact, from the project have been obtained two master's thesis, related to the course in Science and Technology for Archaeological and Artistic Heritage, and a doctoral thesis in the field of Chemistry of Cultural Heritage.

The execution of the project was also a stimulus for the students of Art History, who were able to confront themselves with a work "to be discovered" from the historical-iconographic point of view. In addition, guided tours were carried out inside the building site for students of the three-year degree courses in Science and Technology for Cultural Heritage and the master's degree course in Science and Technology for Archaeological and Artistic Heritage.

[Test taken from Progetto di ricerca interdisciplinare per lo studio e il recupero del dipinto sito nell'ex monastero di Santa Caterina a Padova, undertaken by prof. Renzo Bertoncello, scientific director of the project and president CCS in Science and Technology for Cultural Heritage, April 16, 2010]