Daniela Lippi

Dec 21, 2022 | Restoration

–How did you become a restorer? What was your training path?

I have always loved drawing, and also copying, since primary school. Later, I attended Liceo Artistico, an art focused high-school, but in those four years what I produced didn’t seem to me to be of the same level as that of some of my classmates, who instead had that “something extra” that foreshadowed an artistic career. The reasoning was: if I can’t make the paintings, it means that I will restore them! I knocked on door of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure school, but their school was closed that year (1987) due to one of the many internal reorganisations. Luckily, I discovered a “painting restoration” course at the Professional Training Center of the Tuscany Region, school conceived and directed by Alessandro Conti, an internationally renowned scholar who was firmly convinced of the need of planning a serious maintenance policy for works of art, aimed at correct conservation. I started from there, I was 19 and I found my calling. In 1993 the OPD school reopened, I tried it, but we were about 500 candidates for only 3 places! In the meantime, after a couple of years of practice, I had begun to work intensively for firms trusted by the Superintendence. And here I am. Doing a job you like and are passionate about is a great thing.

–Let’s talk about your work now. There have been many collaboration opportunities with Art-Test, which one do you want to remember?

A project that is “in progress”, of which I am not revealing the subject as it is still to be approved, but whose drafting, carried out in close contact from the start, got me excited. We analysed together with Art-Test the state of conservation of the artwork, a large-scale painting, with a considerable amount of previous and stratified restoration interventions, which had been aimed at solving a problem that has continued to recur until today. We have tried to understand, together, which types of investigations were more useful for tackling the problems as well as for getting to know the artistic technique. Wonderful!

-In general, what are the problems most commonly encountered during a restoration in which diagnostic techniques are more useful? And what advantages does it have for a restorer to support a restoration project with a targeted diagnostic campaign?

I may have already partially answered this question. The problems can be very different: from knowing the binder of a particularly thick and lumpy antique restoration varnish in order to formulate a suitable removal agent, to identifying and mapping the layers of paint superimposed on the original color over time.

-You have been working in this field for many years, what changes have you noticed, for example in terms of customers, prices and commissions?

Over time, the need to know how to do a bit of everything has emerged. In addition to knowing how to do your job on the artwork, you must know the legislation – being a bit of an accountant and a bit of a lawyer – up to knowing how to look for funding, because ministerial ones are few and generally dedicated to something else. But that’s not all: the recognition of the profession of restorer of cultural heritage and of the technician/collaborator of cultural heritage, and the regulation of the training system, has required many years of legal battles and discussions with colleagues and insiders. Fortunately we have achieved some results about 7 years ago, but this has required a considerable effort from all of us, often at the cost of time we could have devoted to paid work.
There would still be a lot of things to sort out. We are not yet “equal”, the work of the conservative restorer almost seems not to be considered really that important. Often it is used only in an “emergency” and timescales are required that do not concile with carrying out certain work phases in the right times.
There are many aspects that have become complicated over the years: the client front, which is rather fragmented, is distinguished by the great variety of the “lists of economic operators” to which it is necessary to register. Then there is the legal/insurance front: professional insurance, laboratory insurance, transport insurance, not to mention the insurance values given to the works which sometimes affect the value of the work naked and raw. All this has a great impact on our costs, while on the price front, we are much lower than the professional value given for example in France, where the hourly rate is much higher than ours.
A disheartening landscape? The wonder of traveling in time through artistic techniques and also through old restorations, wins over all. The rest of the world doesn’t exist…

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