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The Frescoes Rediscovered

particular of a fresco

Save Venice Project: restoration of the Sacristy of the Church of San Salvador

Annalisa Bristot, the director of works from  the Superintendence for the Architectural Heritage of Venice, has defined it as a  "courageous" restoration; and indeed the final result is magnificent. The  ancient   sacristy of the Church of San Salvador has truly returned to its original splendour. Its frescoes faithfully restored to their original condition.

The sacristy, dating back to 1546, is embellished by an oval fresco depicting "Christ as he is blessing". The fresco is attributed to Francesco Vecellio, Tiziano's brother. The sacristy is also gracefully adorned  with floral decorated friezes which the centuries had partially broken.

The Superintendence  has not only restored the  frescoes that were intact  but has also reconstructed  those that were missing, so as to bring back its original beauty the sacristy. However, and in keeping with modern restoration techniques, the reproduced missing parts remain distinct and separate from the original frescoes. There is a gradual lightening of the chromatic colour range as the new and old parts meet.

The restoration, executed by Emma Colle, was financed by the committee Save Venice and with the additional contribution of Young Friends of Save Venice, New York and Boston, and by Mr and Mrs J. Winston Fowlkes, as part of the Unesco program to save Venice and its heritage.

The presentation of the completed restoration was pleasantly transformed by  Don Natalino,  the parish priest, into a truly  festive occasion: the Ensemble of Ancient Venetian Music  performed a concert of Renaissance Spiritual Lauds  and, in the ex-cloister of the Church of San Salvador, there were even refreshments, kindly offered by Telecom Italia.

On a more technical note, whereas Don Natalino believes, basing his  evaluation on the Song of Songs, that an iconographic interpretation of  "Jesus, the garden" is without doubt a valid one, there is some uncertainty in attributing to Francesco Vecellio the frescoes. The emphasized mannerism in the portrayal of  Christ, explains Bristot, has little to do with Vecellio's artistic spirit, or at least as it is traditionally understood and studied, though recent studies have offered new tools of interpretation and further insights into his work.
(Daniela Ghio)

from Il Gazzettino di Venezia of 24 April  2004


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