Advancing Women Artists* shares highlights of the conservation process for those wanting to catch a glimpse of the rescue work. The Art of Healing project proceeds full speed ahead and with painstaking care.
Art movers perform a balancing act at San Giovanni di Dio in borgo Ognissanti, detaching Ferroni’s first 11-foot oval from its niche. Would they be able to slide it out from under the metal scaffolding built during far-reaching renovations of Amerigo Vespucci’s birthplace? An expert shift and, thankfully, it fits.
Grime is gone
If you consider cleaning one of life’s mundane tasks, consider that it is one of conservation’s most rewarding phases. As conservator Liz Wicks uses solvent gels to remove centuries of stubborn dirt, old varnish and repaints, Ferroni’s colors recover their original vibrancy. A makeover with eighteenth-century flair.
Let’s stick together
Conservators apply gentle heat and pressure to consolidate and re-adhere paint layers and smooth canvas distortions. It’s all hands on deck during this fundamental process designed to preserve the painting for the future and guarantee the oval’s overall solidity.
That’s stretching it
Polyester canvas strips make for modern-day “edges”, applied along the painting’s perimeter, so that conservators have enough leeway to stretch the painting onto a new stretcher, custom-made from a template of the original.
Fill me in
Conservator Marina Vincenti works intently to fill in the painting’s missing areas of paint with filling materials that match the painting’s preparatory layer. This process paves the way to pictorial conservation, the moment we’ve all been waiting for.
One of our favorite snaps so far. A bird’s-eye view of conservators in their studio with Saint John of God Heals Plague Victims, which bears witness to Ferroni’s success as an artist who received public commissions in the late 1700s in Florence.
*Saint John of God Heals Plague Victims is the first of two works that Advancing Women Artists is restoring by Violante Ferroni, in collaboration with the Robert Lehman Foundation, The Rauch Foundation and “The Mud Angels meet the Art Angels” with Florida State University in Florence. Partnering institutions: Azienda USL Toscana Centro and Fondazione Santa Maria Nuova.
Captions: Linda Falcone. Photo credits: Francesco Cacchiani (1, 4+6); Ottaviano Caruso (2); In-studio photos, Wicks and Vincenti (3+4).