The first appointment of the year with Thursdays in the Museums comprises the presentation of the volume “Salus Populi Romani. Il restauro dell’antica icona della Basilica Papale di Santa Maria Maggiore” (Salus Populi Romani. The restoration of the antique icon of the Papal Basilica of Saint Mary Major): the new work published by Edizioni Musei Vaticani and dedicated entirely to the historical and artistic vicissitudes of the Marian icon most venerated by the citizens of Rome, and the object of an important and delicate conservation project conducted by the specialists of the Pope's Museums.
The meeting also provides a formal opportunity to announce the start of the celebrations for the centenary of the Vatican Museums’ Painting and Wooden Materials Restoration Workshop, a unique excellence established a century ago due to the far-sightedness of the then-Director Bartolomeo Nogara and the renowned master restorer Biagio Biagetti.
Honoured by the Holy Father Francis on the occasion of each of his apostolic journeys, the sacred image of the Virgin Salus Populi Romani - conserved in the oldest Marian shrine in the entire West - belongs to the tradition of icons attributed to the hand of the Apostle Luke, whose dating, although controversial, would seem to be between the ninth and twelfth centuries. After an initial restoration in 1931, due to the worsening of a previous deterioration affecting both the wooden support and the pictorial film, the ancient and venerated panel underwent further restoration work in 2018, by the restorers of the Vatican Painting and Wooden Materials Laboratory, in collaboration with the Cabinet for Scientific Research applied to Cultural Heritage, under the general scientific direction of the Vatican Museums.
During the conference, which will be held on Thursday 23 February at 04.00 p.m., ample space will be given to the presentation of the research and the surprising results that emerged during the studies and diagnostic investigations preparatory to the restoration work, as well as the conservation strategies implemented to best preserve the Salus Populi Romani, restoring it to popular devotion in a new light and lasting beauty.
The meeting will be opened by institutional greetings from Cardinal Stanisław Ryłko, Archpriest of the Papal Basilica of St. Mary Major. This will be followed by a presentation by the Director of the Vatican Museums, Barbara Jatta, who will introduce the interventions of those involved in the restoration, from the Director of the Paintings and Wooden Materials Laboratory, Francesca Persegati, to the restorers themselves who have worked on the sacred effigy with professionalism and devotional respect: Alessandra Zarelli, Massimo Alesi and Stefano Tombesi. The concluding reports will be entrusted to Vittoria Cimino, former Director of the Conservator’s Office, and Ulderico Santamaria, Director of the Cabinet of Scientific Research applied to Cultural Heritage.