Day 3: Restoring Culture

June 24, 2010 in day#3, Uncategorized by Isabel Gold

The mumbles of students continues to ring when Giacomo Chiari stands. His thick white hair falls into his eyes as he bends to project his slideshow. There are computer problems.

“I guess some technology isn’t for the better, eh?” Chiari laughs.

The moment his presentation lights up, he beams. I instantly thought of a curator of a museum  that happens to hold just one of Piero della Francesca’s monumental fresco, the Madonna del Parto.

The painting is meticulously dissected through radiography and other technologies in a diminutive comune in Arezzo, Italy, and this curator can excitedly talk for hours and hours on Pierro’s life, his work, and the complicated process that their team worked to restore the piece.

Chiari first elaborates on the power of pigment. From it, anyone can find the date, the place of origin, and the authenticity of the print. Aided by their analytical technologies such as X-ray spectrometers and diffractometers, they identify colorants and the charcoal beneath the protective blanket of paint. Egyptian blue, a 3000 year old pigment used in most egyptian art, mummies, etc.  was found popping up in randomly in Romanesque altars. With salt, he shows us the depressing yet futile deterioration in such landmarks as Egypt’s sphinx. Nothing can stay constant.

“In time, and with water, everything changes,” says Leonardo da Vinci.

I became drawn to the scans below the final paint or plaster. I see the intricate muscle structure that now lies hidden by the flowing robes and the occasional doodle no one was meant to see. I feel odd.

The sketches of charcoal act as a diary – the lines are almost always relaxed, flowing in the ease of privacy of the paint. This conservatism brings forth a new method of immersing oneself in art: no longer do we only see the finished product, but we find the continual process as well. In a way, we are bringing art into a sort of fourth dimension, where all time is condensed into one piece.