ArtWatch International’s most famous protest, and perhaps the most divisive restoration in recent history was the twelve year, multi-million dollar restoration of the Sistine Chapel that the Vatican began in 1980. Debate erupted when workers began to clean the frescoes on the ceilings with bleaching chemical. Those who supported the cleaning claimed that what was being removed was only layers of caked-on dirt that had accumulated over the years, and proclaimed that the paintings were being revealed to the glory that Michelangelo had originally intended. Those who opposed the cleanings said that the cleaners were intervening in on what Michelangelo had intended, and that the “layers of dirt” were actually a gum-based patina that Michelangelo himself had applied to enhance the chiaroscuro, or depth, of the paintings.
But those in the field of art restoration often dismiss those who voice these complaints for their lack of actual hands-on experience with artwork. “I think an awful lot of the whole issue of restoration, especially in terms of cleaning and presentation is romantic rather than rational,” counters Williams. “I would suggest that esthetes are the least likely people in the world to understand how objects are made.”
The Opera di Santa Maria del Fiore (the organization which directs the Opera del Duomo or Cathedral Museum) announced the restoration of a piece of art, an immense sculpture by Michelangelo. The project is being financed by Friends of Florence. Work will go on until summer of 2020 and it will be conducted behind glass walls so that visitors to the museum will be able to see all the stages of the restoration as they are happening.
Michelangelo never completed the statue group and actually tried to break it to pieces. A servant stopped him from destroying it and then gave the fragments to Tiberio Calcagni, one of Michelangelo’s collaborators. Calcagni reassembled the it, finished the body of Mary Magdalene and polished the now completed work. It was then sold to a Roman aristocrat, Francesco Bandini.
One of the most precious discoveries was the Madonna’s eyelid.
At the time, art historians were divided on how to proceed with the restoration of the masterpiece.
He says, “Michelangelo’s other statues were carved in good Carrara marble, but this is bad Carrara marble.”
The researchers hope to test a chunk of the marble to identify the quarry where it originated.
The reconstruction of the damaged veil, eye area, nose, arm and hand looked faultless, except for tiny lines that were visible only in close inspection. There was no perceptible difference in the color of the repaired parts and the surrounding marble surface of the sculpture.
By Paul Hofmann Special to The New York Times