Beyond the surface
Beyond the surface

Beyond the surface

Through the eyes of the restorer

11 December 2023
Vatican Museums

Beyond the surface. Through the eyes of the restorer” will be inaugurated on 11 December: the exhibition initiative promoted by the Pope’s Museums as part of the celebrations for the 100th anniversary of the activity of the Painting and Wood Materials Restoration Laboratory, a unique excellence of its kind established a century ago thanks to the farsightedness of the then Director Bartolomeo Nogara and the renowned master restorer Biagio Biagetti.
The range of visits to the pontifical galleries is thus further enriched. For over a year, pilgrims and tourists are offered an integrative, interactive and extensive itinerary to discover the secrets, curiosities and anecdotes hidden behind a work of art, to appreciate close-up those details that are revealed only under the restorer’s lens. Narrative details are offered in an innovative way thanks to QR Code technology and the use of the visitor’s own smartphone. All the visitors have to do is approach one of the thirty-six smart posts positioned along the museum itinerary (located near the painting and recognizable by their distinctive logo and coordinated graphics), scan the QR code and obtain rapid and intuitive access (on a page of the Vatican Museums official website) to extra content on the chosen painting.

“A different view”, “Let’s go inside the work”, “Under the frame”, “Unexpected discovery”, “Come up with us”, “Who is up there?” are just some of the enticing and captivating titles intended to involve visitors, inviting them to stop and dedicate a few minutes of their valuable attention to the “behind the scenes” story offered, both in Italian and English, by the restorer: curiosities, fascinating anecdotes, hidden secrets, painting techniques, and conservation stories.

In inspiring a dialogue between past and future – and in confirming their openness to technological innovation and experimentation of new ways of engaging with artistic heritage – the Vatican Museums, with this project, pay dutiful homage to their history and to the ancient knowledge of restoration: “This is the oldest traditional laboratory we have in the Museums”, states the Director Barbara Jatta, “and also the most numerous in terms of people. This is an important centenary because it tells of many things that have been done: from the ‘restoration of the century’ of the Sistine Chapel to that of the Raphael. Rooms, or the Borgia apartment; but also many other restorations, from the recent one of the Salus Populi Romani to that of the Cross of Saint Eutizio, which is not a work from our collections, but bears witness to the attention of the Pope’s Museums to the works of devotion present throughout the country. An attention that is expressed through the knowledge and cultural background that our highly specialized professional technical restorers have been developing for centuries. Hands and hearts that restore beauty and hope”.