EARTHQUAKE DAMAGE TO WORKS OF ART IN THE FRIULI REGION OF ITALY
Paul M. Schwartzbaum, Constance S. Silver, & Carol A. Grissom
Coordinator, Mural Painting Conservation course, International Centre for Conservation, Via d San Michele 13, 00153 Rome, Italy.
Conservator, c/o Soprintendenza ai Monumenti e Gallerie, Via Aquileia 4, Udine, Italy.
Conservator, 5521 Harney Street, Omaha, Nebraska 68132.
The vulnerability of the traditional stone rubble construction to earthquake tremors aggravated destruction. According to conservative estimates, 63 churches were destroyed, 247 gravely damaged, and 388 damaged; 5 castles were destroyed, 13 gravely damaged, and 21 damaged; 14 wall painting cycles required very urgent work, 13 urgent work, and 43 moderately urgent work. Estimates regarding buildings: private communication, Riccardo Mola, Soprintendente ai Monumenti e Gallerie of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, March 23, 1977; estimates regarding wall paintings: “Rilevamento dei danni riportati dai dipinti murali del Friuli a seguito degli eventi sismici del maggio 1976,” unpublished report n. 2293, Istituto Centrale del Restauro (with the collaboration of the International Centre for Conservation), 1976.
The survey report: “Rilevamenti dei danni …,” etc. (see Footnote 1). Istituto Centrale del Restauro (ICR), Piazza di San Francesco di Paola 9, 00186 Rome, Italy. The ICC was also asked to assist with architectural problems in the Friuli. As a result, architect Donald Del Cid supervised the work of architectural conservation students from the ICC immediately after the May earthquake. The project report: “Presentazione delle relazioni sulle attivitą svolte in Friuli dagli ispettori onorari della Soprintendenza ai Monumenti in collaborazione con il Centro Internazionale per la Conservazione ed il Restauro dei Beni Culturali, dopo la missione realizzata nella zona colpita dal terremoto del 6 maggio, 1966,” unpublished report, International Centre for Conservation, Rome, 1976. Discussion of architectural damage per Se, however, is considered outside the scope of this paper.
Members of the ICR team included art historian Michele Cordaro (team director) and conservators Mara Nimmo and Giuseppe Moro. Members of the ICC team included conservators Paul M. Schwartzbaum (team director), Constance Silver, Katsuhiko Masuda, and Andrea Lidgerwood; art historian Elizabeth Smith Schwartzbaum and architect Donald Del Cid. In November, the survey was revised to reflect the situation after the September earthquakes by P. and E. Schwartzbaum, C. Silver, and D. Del Cid.
In the course of the survey, the original form for recording information was continuously revised as a result of experience in the field.
The removal of a fresco is somewhat analagous to the transfer of a panel painting in that it is generally considered undesirable except as a last resort. “Strappo” is the removal of only the uppermost pigment-bearing layer; “stacco” is the removal of the fresco and its plaster preparation; “stacco a massello” is the removal of the painting, preparation, and mural support. It is generally desirable to remove as much of the preparation as possible in order to preserve the original character of the wall. “Stacco a massello,” however, is often prohibitively expensive.
The Soprintendenza ai Monumenti e Gallerie is the Italian agency responsible for the conservation of works of art in Italy. Under its auspices, mural paintings have received treatment for earthquake-related damage in over 47 churches. Alberto Rizzi, “Scoperte e distruzioni di affreschi in seguito al terremoto in Friuli,” Ce fastu?, 52, 1976, pp. 171–183. Many of these interventions were carried out by the Istituto Centrale del Restauro in September and October 1976 and May 1977 (proposed).
In the process very fine early medieval fresco fragments were discovered. These had been used as fill material in the construction of the vault.
The removal of the large fresco described in this paper was carried out by Constance Silver with the assistance of Carol Grissom during the last weeks of 1976.
Animal glues are traditionally preferred for fresco removal because of their strong adhesive properties. However, they cannot be used under exposed conditions. “Paraloid B72,” known as “Acryloid B72” in the U. S., is the most commonly used synthetic resin in conservation in Italy. “Diluente Nitro” is a mixture of organic solvents with a high percentage of toluene.
The team was led by Mara Nimmo and included Constance Silver, who originally alerted the authorities to the importance of the frescoes.
Hydraulic cement is not considered the ideal material for use in mural painting consolidation because of the possible exudation of harmful salts, but it was the only material available.
Since each meter contained less than twenty stones, twenty unique arabic numbers were assigned to each meter, e.g., 1–20 for the first meter, 21–40 for the second, etc. Smaller fragments on the ground near the wall and at the base of the cliff were also recorded and collected in boxes.
FRIAM, Friuli Arts and Monuments, is a private American organization funding restoration projects in the Friuli. Directing the organization in Italy is Henry Millon, Director of the American Academy in Rome. In addition to local and national approval, projects are reviewed by Professor Paul Philippot, Director of the International Centre for Conservation. Paul Schwartzbaum, a member of the FRIAM Committee in Italy, has directed the technical aspects of the FRIAM projects described in this paper. The survey was conducted by Carol Grissom.
For example, special appropriations by the national government and the establishment of a conservation school and laboratory by the region.
Bernard Rabin will be chief conservator, assisted by Carol Grissom, Constance Silver, Laurence Keck, and advanced students from American conservation programs.