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A Vatican Museums art restorer works on a painting at the restoration laboratory at the Vatican on Monday (CNS/Lola Gomez)

The Vatican Museums has launched an initiative to give visitors – online and in person – a “backstage” peek into the secrets, curiosities and insights discovered by their art restorers. Source: OSV News.

When cleaning, repairing and analysing major works of art up close or with X-rays or infrared radiation, experts often find unexpected and hidden details.

The new yearlong initiative lets visitors learn more about some of the discoveries and view details concealed or hard to see in some 36 masterpieces.

“Beyond the surface. Through the eyes of the restorer” was inaugurated at the Vatican Museums on Monday. 

Wherever museum visitors see a self-standing placard with a QR code in front of a masterpiece, they can scan it with a smartphone to access about a dozen or more other images and explanations about the artwork that would otherwise be impossible to see. The exhibit is also accessible online as one of its “featured galleries”.

For example, with Leonardo da Vinci’s St Jerome in the Wilderness, there are closeups of the painting’s light blue sky, revealing the Florentine artist’s fingerprints from when he blended and spread the fresh pigments on the surface with his hand to blur the line between earth and sky, as it appears when seeing a distant landscape.

The initiative celebrates the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the museums’ first restoration laboratory, which is dedicated to the conservation of all paintings, frescoes and art works made with wood materials belonging to the Holy See. 

Francesca Persegati, chief restorer of the Vatican Museums, said the museums’ restorers wanted to celebrate their lab’s anniversary by sharing their most cherished discoveries and methods of restoration with visitors who are so often overwhelmed by so much to see around them.


Vatican Museums share hidden images, details found by art restorers (By Carol Glatz, CNS via OSV News)

Vatican Museums – Online Catalogue (Vatican Museums)