JAIC 1977, Volume 17, Number 1, Article 2 (pp. 09 to 16)
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Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC 1977, Volume 17, Number 1, Article 2 (pp. 09 to 16)

EARTHQUAKE DAMAGE TO WORKS OF ART IN THE FRIULI REGION OF ITALY

Paul M. Schwartzbaum, Constance S. Silver, & Carol A. Grissom



2 A SURVEY OF DAMAGED MURAL PAINTINGS

In the aftermath of the May earthquake, the Istituto Centrale del Restauro and the International Centre for Conservation were requested by the Italian national authorities to assess the damage suffered by the mural paintings, establish conservation priorities, and make treatment recommendations.5 To this end, a joint survey was conducted from July 3–9, 1976. The survey team included conservators, art historians, and an architect.6 Findings were recorded on a prepared form utilizing the following criteria to establish priorities:

  1. the condition of the building, its stability, safety, and the exigencies of its repair;
  2. the type and amount of damage suffered by the wall painting;
  3. the probability of its further damage;
  4. the degree of its exposure to the elements;
  5. its art historical, historical, or local importance.7

The types of damage encountered in the survey were those usually associated with mural paintings. The major difference was found to be the speed of the deteriorative process: the initial damage (cracks, detachment of layers, lacunae) occurred in a few seconds, and the secondary damage (softening of plaster, powdering of the surface, growth of microorganisms, exudation of salts) often proceeded at a rapid pace when the frescoes were unprotected from the elements.

Recommendations were made for ways to stabilize the conditions of the wall paintings. These included the construction of temporary roofs, structural proppings and counterforms; the application of supportive facings; the injection of adhesives; and the collection and storage of fragments. In the extreme cases in which the preservation of the fresco “in situ” did not seem possible, it was necessary to recommend the removal of the fresco.8


Copyright 1977 American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works