Restoration of the Room of the Liberal Arts
Restoration of the Room of the Liberal Arts

Restoration of the Room of the Liberal Arts

Pinturicchio, painter and entrepreneur

Thursday 21 September 2023 | 04.00 p.m.
Vatican Museums Conference Hall – in person and live streaming

On Thursday 21 September, a few months after the conclusion of the restoration of the Room of the Liberal Arts in the Borgia Apartment, the Vatican Museums will devote an edition of Thursdays in the Museums to the complex recovery of the wall decorations completed between 1492 and 1494 by the Perugian master Bernardino di Betto, known as Pinturicchio.
The room, which was probably used as a study for Pope Alexander VI Borgia (1492-1503), is called the Room of the Liberal Arts with reference to the “arts” or disciplines that formed the basis of medieval school teaching. They represent the celebration of knowledge in its various specializations and are allegorically depicted as beautiful women seated on thrones. Prominent among them is the Rhetorica, which bears the inscription “Pentorichio”, the only signature of the artist present in the entire pictorial cycle.

Supported by the generosity of the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums (Canada Chapter), the restoration of the Room is part of the broader conservation project of the paintings in the Borgia Apartment, initiated in 2002 with the Room of the Mysteries and conducted in its entirety by the Painting and Wood Materials Laboratory under the guidance of the Director of the Laboratory, Francesca Persegati, and the Site Director, Marco Pratelli. The work was carried out under the scientific supervision of the Department of XV-XVI Century Art, formerly directed by the late Guido Cornini and now led by Curator Fabrizio Biferali.
During the conference not only the historical events that led to the various changes in the use of the space be retraced, along with the evident consequences for the state of conservation of the entire Apartment, but the focus will be above all on the technique used by Pinturicchio in the numerous and rich decorations. Indeed, the artist, with his collaborators, worked dry on a layer of plaster and glue, treating the walls as if they were easel paintings and thus obtaining tonal effects impossible to achieve with frescoes, a technique that the painter mastered to perfection, but which could not guarantee him - as the "indefatigable site manager" that he was - the speed of execution necessary to cope, with an ante litteram entrepreneurial spirit, with the considerable amount of work to be carried out.

The conference will be introduced at 04.00 p.m. by the Director of the Vatican Museums, Barbara Jatta, who will then give the floor to the various protagonists of the project: Fabrizio Biferali, Curator of the Department of XV-XVI Century Art; Marco Pratelli, Master Restorer; Ulderico Santamaria, Director of the Cabinet of Scientific Research applied to Cultural Heritage; Fabio Morresi, Diagnostic Assistant at the same Cabinet; and Francesca Persegati, Director of the  Painting and Wood Materials Restoration Laboratory.