Frescoes Finding Purpose in Restoration After Italy Earthquakes

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After the earthquake in the central Italian region of Umbria, the town of Norcia was restored with frescoes. Cleaning and restoring these paintings brought people together to work and contributed to economic growth.

Tiziano Minuti Giusti is a fresco painter from Perugia, where he also teaches at the Fine Arts Academy. He was called to Norcia in 2012 to do restoration work on the frescoes inside the church of San Benedetto. He has been working there ever since, along with other artists, conservators, and volunteers.

What is your task in Norcia?

My main job is to restore the frescoes inside and outside the church of San Benedetto. I am also responsible for all restoration work in Norcia’s churches that were damaged by the earthquakes. The interior frescoes of Saint Benedict and Saint Augustine are being restored as well as some paintings inside Saint Mary Magdalene’s church and some others near it. The exterior frescoes are under my supervision as well. This includes a series of twelve apostles painted on the side walls of San Benedetto’s bell tower; they are in very bad condition because they were so exposed to weather conditions before we started restoration work on them last year.

It was a long, dusty job, and there were always more paintings to save. But for three months in 2015 and 2016, the group, which included restorers from the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, worked full time in Norcia, an ancient city devastated by earthquakes.

The team worked alongside art historians and architects and local workers who painstakingly removed rubble and made repairs to damaged structures.

The paintings that the team worked to save are among Italy’s most important frescoes, depicting biblical scenes and saints in a 12th-century church in Norcia’s historic center. One of the frescoes includes “Crucifixion,” painted by Giovanni di Paolo, considered one of the great painters of the Italian Renaissance.

The restoration was part of a broader effort to rebuild this medieval city in the foothills of Italy’s central Apennine Mountains after two earthquakes that struck nine months apart left much of it uninhabitable. What began as emergency work became something more: a long-term project that has not only helped preserve some of Italy’s artistic treasures but also offered a model for how to blend art restoration with disaster response.”

After the earthquakes of 2016, the city of Norcia in Italy was hard hit. Beyond the physical damage, it was emotionally devastating for the citizens of Norcia. The city is famous for its church and frescoes dating back to the 1200s.

The church of Santa Maria della Misericordia had been built in 1228, and it contains some of the best examples of Byzantine art in all of Italy. When a large portion of the ceiling collapsed, Dr. Franco Coppi, Director of the Center for Advanced Studies at the University of Tor Vergata and a leading expert on Byzantine art, was called in to assess the damage.

Tearing down walls, removing frescoes from their plaster setting and reconstructing them is a painstakingly slow process that requires skill and a great deal of attention to detail so as not to destroy any of the original work.

Franco Coppi and his team have been working diligently since they first arrived at the site to help restore Santa Maria della Misericordia. Their goal has been to remove damaged frescoes from their plaster setting so that they can be restored at a later date. They have also worked with students from Rome’s La Sapienza University on excavating underneath

Art restoration can take a fresco from looking like this to looking like this.

The frescoes are not just pieces of art, they are pieces of culture—meaning they are part of the identity of those who view them. It is a local tradition that goes back centuries. The restoration of these images has been a painstaking process, so the artworks can be better preserved for future generations and for their meaning to be more clearly understood.

The frescoes were found in the Basilica of San Benedetto, in Norcia which was severely damaged by an earthquake in 2016. As a result, the frescoes were exposed and began to deteriorate from exposure. Restoration efforts began soon after and are still underway.

In the wake of the earthquakes, many buildings in Norcia are still closed. Churches, museums, schools and other public buildings are still being assessed for structural damage. But many local businesses are reopening, including some that have been heavily damaged by the quakes themselves.

The Church of San Benedetto in Norcia is one example. Its facade was demolished by the August earthquake. Now scaffolding surrounds the church as restorers work to remove debris and to restore frescoes that were damaged in the quake.

Tommaso Tinti is a restorer who has worked on many of Norcia’s frescoes. He’s descended from a long line of artists who have worked on religious art in this Umbrian town. “My father is an artist, my grandfather an artist,” he says with pride. “I am an artist.”

Restorers like him play a vital role after natural disasters like earthquakes and floods, Tinti explains as he puts on his hard hat and safety glasses to go out onto the scaffolding around San Benedetto.

“We must work fast,” he says in Italian, “because if [the frescoes] stay too long under plastic they will be destroyed.”

He points to the plastic covering that

In Italy, the earthquakes that shook the central region in 2016 left an indelible mark. However, they also revealed a treasure: frescoes dating back to the 12th Century.In fact, the damage caused by the earthquakes has exposed frescoes in several churches of historical and artistic value throughout Italy. It goes without saying that the task of restoring these priceless works of art is arduous and delicate; for this reason, it is also necessary to bring in specialized teams of experts to carry out these works.

Tuscany is not exempt from this problem, especially after the recent earthquake in Norcia struck on 30 October 2016. The restoration of the frescoes that have been damaged or destroyed will be entrusted to a group of restorers belonging to Dolciarte Italia n.c., an organization founded in 1995 whose headquarters are located in Florence. Among its many goals there are research, training and support for local companies involved in restoration work.

The restoration work will commence with a series of conferences on “Restoration After Earthquakes” which will provide valuable information on: how to prevent further destruction, what precautions must be taken when entering churches and religious buildings affected by the earthquakes and how to avoid accidents, as well as how to proceed with urgent restoration work

Art restoration is a special kind of restoration. It’s not the same as restoring an old building or an old car. It’s more like restoring a historic document.

What do you actually do? You have to clean, of course, but there is more to it than that. You have to be able to see what is on the painting and what isn’t, and figure out how it was done. You need to know enough about art history to understand what you’re seeing. That can be hard, because in many cases, no one knows exactly what’s there anymore.

The work I am doing now is on paintings that are hundreds of years old, so they are very fragile and damaged in spots due to exposure over time and temperature changes. I am working with frescoes from the 1700s that were painted over by an artist from the 1800s who wanted to make his own frescoes. The most challenging thing about this job was cleaning the areas where the frescoes were painted over. The painting needed to be cleaned because it was so dark from dirt and dust; however, we were worried about removing any original paint off of the surface since it was likely already weathered and fragile from hundreds of years in a damp location with fluctuating temperatures.”

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