[ jump the menù ]
Interview to Emma Colle
At present, the San Salvador sacristy is being restored. In this interview we talk to Mrs. Emma Colle, who is responsible for the restoration work. She is to carry out the work itself and has been asked to bring back to their original beauty a large number of frescoes. The frescoes date back to the 16th century and were traditionally considered to be by Francesco Vecellio; however, they have now been attributed to Camillo Cappelli, called il Mantovano.
We would like to know a little more about this restoration: whose initiative was it and who is funded by?
Mrs Anna Bristot, officer of the Venetian Superintendence, took the initiative, while the financial sponsor is 'Save Venice Inc.', a private committee of UNESCO.
Was it you who conducted the preliminary tests that we can see?
No,it wasn’t. Investigative research and tests on the structure and composition of the frescoes had already been carried out by Arcadia Ricerche. On the basis of their results we are now able to start planning and begin working on our restoration project.
When did you start and what was the initial condition of the frescoes?
We started at the end of last January. The frescoes had already been restored around 1900-1910 using outdated techniques and in an improper way. We found many layers and patches, remains of a kind of retouching material made of white plaster and other components . During that restoration the original plaster base was scraped and now parts are missing. Some of the decorations, in a attempt to reconstruct them, were restored improperly and hastily. The frescoes were then covered with a yellow patina to give them an older look. Only once we’ve cleaned them, will we be able to see all the alterations and what remains of the original frescoes.
So, if I’ve understood, the problem is to see what remains of the original frescoes once you’ve cleaned them?...
Exactly, here and there the original painting is coming off in layers and is badly damaged by infiltrations from the salty lagoon water. The other big problem remains the first restoration which was of a much lower 'quality' if compared with the original frescoes. Furthermore the frescoes underwent a further retouching that coated them with an acrilic resin, making them look more like paintings than frescoes. This resin doesn’t allow the plaster to transpire, causing it to come off in layers. We have to remove it. The Chemical Dept. of Florence invented a new way of removing resins. It is very innovative and effective, and it is also non-toxic.
So your major difficulty is the restoration work done at the start of the last Century.
Exactly: we are restoring a previous restoration and attempting to repair the damage done. This often happens in our job.
What will the final result be like?
Well, I think that if we use light coatings of the same colours, we can make those parts which were scrapped off very similar to the original ones. We'll try to make the original colours remerge even if I think we won’t obtain a perfect result.
When do you think you will finish this restoration?
We have a dead-line: in September or October.
A personal question: do you like your job?
Our life is quite hard: we’re often away from our homes, we breath dust and chemical substances and work in uncomfortable places; although I must admit that the very toxic materials we once used have been replaced . All in all, yes, I love my job and find it very rewarding.
June 4th, 2003
[ top of page ]