Experts Restore Masterpieces At Vatican Museums

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Restorers Alessandra Zarelli and Rossana Giardina work on paintings at the "painting and wood materials restoration laboratory" inside the Vatican Museums, at the Vatican, December 11, 2023. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane/File Photo

Most of the art masterpieces we have appreciated over the years date back to over 3000 and 2000 years ago, but have you ever wondered why there happens to be no defacement, wearing off, or any colour smudging on the paintings all these years? Right, you haven’t. Now this is what art restorers do behind the scenes.

Ongoing at the Vatican Museums is the mass restorations of some almost damaged pieces that require a new touch. One of the experts pouring her soul into touching up artwork is  Alessandra Zarelli, 56.

She explains that it is thrilling to work on the masterpieces of famous artists, however, it is impossible to revel in the honour when your utmost attention is required for the restoration job.

“The emotion of working on something like a Michelangelo is truly indescribable. “But I try to remain detached while I am working. I have to concentrate on the material and the work that I have to do, otherwise, the emotion would paralyse me. At the end of the day I keep some moments for myself to contemplate and enjoy the emotion of being so close to marvellous masterpieces,” she said while working on a painting from 1550 called Enthroned Madonna and Child with Saints by Italian artist Moretto da Brescia.

A team of about 36 individuals including Alessandra Zarelli handles the Vatican’s restoration lab for paintings and wood. They are responsible for looking after wall paintings, 5,300 framed oil paintings and dozens of wooden statues.

Another restorer, Caterina Manisco who is restoring an 1895 painting called Madonna and Child Between St. Theresa and St. Francis, by Emma Richards, shared with Reuters that her job is interesting “Because she was a woman, I somehow feel very close to her.”

Ahead of the centenary celebration of the Vatican Museums, QR codes have been placed near 37 works of art that immerse visitors in the many layers of the life of restoration.

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