The start of the project was marked by three international conferences on conservation history and the latest restoration work on “The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne” in the Louvre Museum (Paris), “The Virgin of the Rocks” at the National Gallery (London), and “The Last Supper” in Milan, all by Leonardo da Vinci.
Speakers included curators and art historians as well as the restorers responsible for the latest work.
The conference held on Friday 9 May 2014 at the Auditorium Giovanni Testori in Palazzo Lombardia concerned the restoration (completed in 2012) of the oil painting on panel “The Virgin and Child with Saint Anne” by Leonardo da Vinci. Participants included Pierre Curie, conservator of the picture section of the Conservation Department of the Research and Restoration Centre for French Museums (C2RMF), and Cinzia Pasquali, the restorer responsible for the work.
The event on Friday 6 June held in the conference hall of the Palazzo Reale involved Larry Keith, conservator and restorer from the antique paintings department of the National Gallery in London who illustrated the critical fortunes and conservation history of the painting “The Virgin of the Rocks”, describing his restoration work which began in 2008 and lasted more than a year.
The presenter and moderator for both the conferences was art historian Mauro Natale (University of Geneva).
The conference on Thursday 22 October held at Palazzo Litta provided an occasion to examine the origins, vicissitudes and current state of conservation of “The Last Supper” which Leonardo painted on the end wall of the refectory attached to the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. There was a large audience to hear Pietro Cesare Marani, Pietro Petraroia and Pinin Brambilla Barcilon describe the restoration history and critical fortunes of Leonardo’s Last Supper.
“ST. ANNE” BY LEONARDO DA VINCI IN THE LOUVRE MUSEUM
Leonardo’s “The Virgin and Child with St. Anne” now in the Louvre and recently restored, remained in an unfinished state after a long period of gestation from 1503 until 1519. The latest restoration has led to marked differences of opinion amongst restorers and art historians. The conservation work, completed in 2012, mainly concerned the paint film where some of the paint layers that had altered over time were removed, highlighting the original lapis-lazuli blue of the Virgin’s mantle and revealing details which had remained hidden up to now, such as Leonardo’s fingerprints which would lead us to suppose that he spread some of the paints by hand.
LEONARDO’S “VIRGIN OF THE ROCKS” IN THE NATIONAL GALLERY
“The Virgin of the Rocks” at the National Gallery in London was created in several stages by Leonardo as a second version of the painting held in the Louvre. The latest restoration, which began in 2008 and lasted about a year and half, thinned the layers of paint applied during a previous restoration in the late 1940s.
The cleaning operation revealed the original sculptured effect which Leonardo created by shading the hues from light to dark, an aesthetic quality which is difficult to appreciate because of the yellowing and the de-saturation of the paint layers which have deteriorated with age.
RESTORATION AND CONSERVATION HISTORY OF LEONARDO’S “LAST SUPPER”
Leonardo’s “Last Supper”, one of the most celebrated wall paintings in art history, is also unique in the history of restoration. The recent conference provided an occasion to recount the complex conservation story of this work, through the various restoration projects from the eighteenth century up until today. Speakers and protagonists of the conference were Pietro Petraroia, director of restoration works from 1991 to 1999, Pietro Cesare Marani, an expert on Leonardo and co-director of restorations from 1991 to 1999, and Pinin Brambilla Barcilon who carried out the latest restoration from 1977 to 1999.