Silvia, how did you become a restorer? What was your training path?
Since primary school I have shown a certain predisposition to drawing and manual skills that my family has always supported by enrolling me in private painting courses. Attending the Martenot Art Center in Florence was fundamental for me. It allowed me to experiment with numerous techniques from painting to sculpture, but in the eighth grade, after seeing a report on television, I had already decided that the painting restoration would become my profession.
At the end of the course in the Martenot center, I was asked by my teacher Grazia Padovani if I was interested in continuing my education to become a teacher. I had just graduated from scientific high school … I looked into her eyes and told her that I wanted to become a restorer. It was her who pointed out to me the workshop of Giorgio Gentilini and Silvana Castellani, who worked both for private clients and for the public sector.
From there, my professional training began: a lot of apprenticeship, many experiences in the laboratory on all types of ancient and modern works of art: these were years in which the antiques market was very flourishing and even museums invested in the conservation of their collections.
At the end of the 90s I felt the need to deepen and update my education. There were new methods of conservative intervention and approaches to cleaning that were more respectful and less invasive for the artworks and certainly more in line with the most famous national restoration centers that I had not had the opportunity to attend. The numerous courses with Paolo Cremonesi, Visha Mehra, De la Rie, Wolbers, Cesmar 7 and CNA were fundamental for this.
Moreover, at the end of the nineties, the request for restoration interventions on modern and contemporary works was rapidly raising. Therefore, I engaged myself to deepen my knowledge on new materials and on new intervention methods other than traditional ones, also by participating in international conferences: these were profitable opportunities for growth, enrichment and comparison with other working realities.
Let’s talk now about your work. With Art-Test there have been many opportunities for collaboration, which one do you want to remember?
For many years, when possible, I have availed myself of the experience and professionalism of Art-Test.
In particular, I remember the collaboration that took place in 2020 for the restoration of Judith and Holofernes by Jacopo Ligozzi.
The work, signed and dated, was commissioned in the early 17th century by Ferdinando I De Medici to be donated to the Duke of Mantua, Vincenzo Gonzaga. Later, Ferdinando I, decided to add it to the Medici collection (1602 is date of listing) and to have a copy made to be delivered in Mantua. The elegant biblical heroine, painted in the moment before striking the fatal blow to Holofernes, seems to have been inspired by a lost original by Raphael, of which at least two other versions survive: one painted by Giuliano Bugiardini and preserved in the Regional Gallery of Sicily and the other preserved in the Musée des Beaux-Arts, Chambéry (Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes, France).
On this occasion, many non-invasive diagnostic investigations were performed:
- IR reflectography: in order to understand what was the making process and the artist’s style and check for the possible presence of a preparatory drawing.
- IR-False colour: to highlight the nature of the pigments and retouching.
- Xrays investigations: to acquire further information on the nature of the materials, of the support, of the possible priming, of the technique used by the artist, on the repentance perceived in correspondence with the sword, to have a mapping of the previous restorations and to have all possible information on the alleged stylistic references to Raphael’s lost work.
- UV fluorescence: necessary to understand the nature of organic materials and paint based on the fluorescence emitted and above all to evaluate their distribution on the surface of the works.
- Microbiological investigations were also carried out, with the sampling and analysis of the sample, aimed at identifying the nature and degree of activity of the biological attack that affected the cloth to be re-sheathed, allowing me to subsequently intervene with an appropriate biocide.
Diagnostics is of fundamental importance for the restoration, conservation and study of our immense artistic and cultural heritage, especially because it allows us restorers, with the information acquired, to be able to intervene with greater awareness and reliability on the works.
You have been working in this field for many years, what changes have you noticed, for example in terms of customers, prices and clients?
Thea amount of work I called to perform has grown with me, hand in hand with the experience and professionalism acquired over the years, work after work slowly gaining the trust of both public and private clients.
I work in a sector where competition is fierce, bureaucracy is increasingly articulated especially when we are talking about public procurement and IT platforms which certainly guarantee transparency and a rotation of restoration laboratories in charge, but I believe that a really agile formula has not yet been found.