Exploring the Secrets of the Works: An Interactive Laboratory in Cortona

Oct 22, 2023 | Authentications & attributions

Imagine yourself in front of a large canvas: “The Baptism of Christ” by Pietro Montanini, a work that typically adorns the Leparelli altar in the church of Sant’Agostino in Cortona. What happens when a work like this enters a restoration studio?

The municipality has granted access to this imposing canvas, and the restorer Nadia Innocentini has invited us to create a joint interactive workshop during the second edition of the Cauthamente Science Festival in Cortona, which this year had the theme: “connection, between circuits and motherboards, between atoms and molecules, of course, but also between different disciplines, and ultimately connections between humans. Connections are what take science beyond itself and make it knowledge.”

Observing and dialoguing, the restorer and the diagnostician revealed to all participants the secrets of inspecting a work, both from the front and from the back, starting from every detail visible to the naked eye.

But the most engaging part was when the audience was invited to share their observations and explore hidden details.

We showed how the use of grazing light can reveal aspects that escape the initial glance. And we demonstrated how the use of UV lamps can uncover ancient restorations and repaints. Additionally, we explained how reflectographic investigations can contribute to a more precise understanding of the artwork’s state of preservation.

Before undertaking any restoration work, the sharing of observations and reflections between the restorer and the diagnostician always appears as the best path to preserve and protect a work of art.

This dialogue is always the foundation of an ideal conservation process, and the workshop we participated in seemed like an important opportunity to raise awareness of the preservation of our artistic heritage, especially through the involvement of the younger generations.

(Photo credits: Ufficio Stampa Comune di Cortona)

Emanuela Massa
Emanuela Massa