Since the creation of the livestream broadcast series, Restoration Conversations, I have dreamed of taking viewers into one of the world’s foremost restoration laboratories: the Opificio delle Pietre Dure. It is a quiet but busy place of fortress-like magnitude, hosted in the imposing Fortezza da Basso complex, a pentagon-shaped stronghold built in the 1500s by the will of the Medici family following the Siege of Florence. The Opificio delle Pietre Dure, whose name is a mouthful for newcomers to the city, was founded as the Medici’s precious stones laboratory by Ferdinando I, Christina of Lorraine’s husband, and its vocation for restoration developed largely following Florence’s 1966 flood, almost 370 years later. Not open to the museum-going public, except via special permission, it is a center for the rescue and repair of canvas and panel paintings, polychrome sculptural works in wood, paper items and more.
On Tuesday, June 13 at 4.30pm, Italy time, join organizers Calliope Arts for Restoration Conversations streamed live from the Opificio’s paper restoration laboratory. During the visit, expect a conversation with paper conservator Simona Calza, as she uncovers the secrets and challenges of restoring works on paper and parchment. A nugget of knowledge to keep in mind as you watch: paper and parchment are among the most delicate artworks ever produced and the glitch lies in their sensitivity to temperature, humidity and the surrounding environment. In artwork, paper’s ever-reactive organic nature clashes with the more inert layer of paint, creating troublesome cupping and cracking, especially for images produced directly on their paper support, without a ground layer, as in painting.
During the conversation, we will have a chance to view restored tempera-on-paper works from Prato’s Museo di Palazzo Pretorio by Maria Luisa Raggi (1742-1813) a little-known nun-painter from a Genoese family of high-standing. Art historian Consuelo Lollobrigida, author of Maria Luigia Raggi. Il Capriccio Paesaggistico tra Arcadia e Grand Tour, who has played a key role in the rediscovery of the artist’s oeuvre, shares the following observations as background information for June 13. “At first glance, Maria Luisa Raggi is a simple figure…she repeatedly painted a series of similar landscapes for the whole of her career, reproducing the landscape as she saw it. These joy-filled scenes are brimming with life, but they also express her spiritual perspectives; they are works of light and illustrate the quest for freedom, even mental freedom. Through her landscapes, this cloistered Turchine nun who, in her youth, was forced into one of the strictest cloistered orders of all time, travels through the ‘open spaces’ of her dreams. To use a term from modern-day psychology, Maria Luisa Raggi’s artworks were a form of evasion.”
Why does Dr. Lollobrigida relate Raggi to the Grand Tour? At the onset of the French Revolution, Raggi is believed to have escaped from her convent, finding refuge with an uncle in Rome for an estimated five years. While there she worked for Grand Tour clients inspired by the ubiquitous Roman architecture found in her artworks.
Restoration Conversations are organized by Calliope Arts, with media partner The Florentine