1Every conservation project requires above all a thorough understanding of the work of art, including its values and meaning that has been acquired with the passage of time, according to the cultural trend or liturgical need in vogue. In the case of the pulpit of San Leonardo, this has been particularly important because of its complex conservation history.
- 1 San Pier Scheraggio Church, consecrated in 1068 by Rudolf II, Bishop of Todi, was from the 11th c (...)
2The pulpit of San Leonardo in Arcetri, made during the second half of the XII century, is one of the most indicative examples of the Tuscan Romanesque sculpture. At the same time this piece is one of the most problematic due to the lack of information on its origin and craftsman. First records place it in the Florentine church of San Pier Scheraggio, where it was disassembled during the transformations carried out by Vasari in 15701.
3After the confiscation of ecclesiastical properties carried out by the Lorena in 1743, the church was deconsecrated and included in the building destined to the Uffizi. The recovered remains of the medieval pulpit were reconstructed in 1782 in the San Leonardo in Arcetri church on the request of Grand Duke Leopold II (fig.1).
Fig. 1 Pulpit after the 1782 restoration
The pulpit was re-composed on the right wall of the San Leonardo in Arcetri Church.
Credits: Alinari Archive, 1906
- 2 G.M. Gheri, Memorie Reperite della Chiesa di San Leonardo in Arcetri (“Liber Chronicon”), ms. 177 (...)
- 3 A merchants association (Richa 1755, II, p.18).
- 4 Tigler 1997, p.68.
4The only documentation recording events related to this reconstruction are the reports referred by the priest at San Leonardo, Gheri, and Notizie delle chiese fiorentine written by Richa2. According to the latter, the six reliefs that composed the pulpit were recovered - three from a late-Renaissance pulpit in San Pier Scheraggio and the other three from the “Compagnia degli Stipendiati”3, annexed to the church. According to later studies made by Tigler the granite columns, with the frames around the reliefs and the inlay-decorated pillars were found “on Scheraggio's pavement”4.
- 5 “In the reconstruction of the pulpit executed in 1782, all of the stone parts over the capitals w (...)
5The remains of the medieval pulpit were supplemented with new fragments of sandstone to complete the final cornice and painted plaster imitating marble to complete the frame and pillars that framed the reliefs5. In addition to these elements, the pulpit was given a new sandstone architrave and two classic sandstone semi-columns.
6Such a reconstruction was the response to a will of recovering and giving value to the medieval artistic heritage, proposing integrations in the style of the period in which they were made. In Tuscany, other Romanesque pulpits were restored following identical criteria. Examples of this are the pulpit of San Giovanni Fourcivitas restored in 1778, and the pulpit of San Gennaro in Capannori (Lucca) restored in 17896. In both interventions, integrations were used to complete the damaged inlaid marble with pieces of plaster imitating marble.
- 7 Giglioli et al. 1924, p. 171. Amongst the restored buildings we can mention the Palazzo di Giusti (...)
- 8 Lamberini 2003, p. 63.
7An important moment essential to the understanding of the piece, as we can see today, was 1921, the year of the celebration of the 600th anniversary of the death of Dante. For the occasion the Tuscan capital set in motion a recovery plan for its medieval monuments, significant of the era when the poet lived7. The Dantesque celebration offered an excellent occasion for the recovery of the city’s civic roots, matching the search for patriotic values with the romantic fascination with the medieval period, abound in national, artistic and moral values8.
- 9 Giglioli et al. 1924, p. 172.
- 10 In particular some scholars of the time criticized the plaster integrations and the high entablat (...)
8The Arcetri pulpit had to be among the restored monuments, “last remainder of the church that held the Council of the Florentine Republic, where Dante spoke”9. The idea that the reliefs and modern elements added in 1782 reduced the artistic importance of the pulpit gained support. It was therefore necessary to focus on the historical value of the pulpit, freeing it from the stratification of time and returning it back to its medieval appearance10.
- 11 On June 28th the supervisor of the Tuscan Monuments asks for permission to restore the pulpit to (...)
9The job was assigned to the architect Giuseppe Castellucci, director of the “Ufficio Regionale per la Conservazione dei Monumenti”11, already involved in the re-composition of the baptismal fontwhere, according to the legend, Dante was baptized.
- 12 In an article, journalist Ascanio Forti praises the ability of the architect to recognize all th (...)
10Castellucci exemplified the thought of his time, striving in his works for the re-establishment of a stylistic coherence and proposing a sort of journey in time to rediscover the original shape of the monuments. Castellucci's restorations were well received by the critics because they were based on detailed historical documentation and on a deep knowledge of artistic styles. Where written record was not enough, indicators, such as the ornamental motifs, the inscriptions, the state of conservation and the details and surface elements were often used to restore the work to its “original shapes”12.
- 13 In 1960, a relief depicting the “Annunciation” appeared in the antique market. Critics consider (...)
11In the case of Arcetri, the lack of information about the original location of the pulpit in San Pier Scheraggio forced Castellucci to propose a quadrangular arrangement13 (fig.2). On this occasion the pulpit was mounted on the left wall of the church, with the box resting on the two medieval columns. The arrangement of the reliefs, two on each side, was changed according to formal and theological criteria. The “Deposition” and the “Tree of Jesse” reliefs were placed in the front, being the only two scenes decorated with inlay work in the background (fig.3).
Fig. 2 Pulpit after the latest restoration, in 2009-2010
Currently we can observe the arrangement given in 1921, on the left wall of the church
Credits: Luca Luppi.
Fig. 3 The “Deposition” and the “Tree of Jesse” reliefs
Castellucci placed these reliefs, the only two scenes decorated with inlays in the background, on the front.
Credits: Luca Luppi
12The “Presentation at the Temple” and the “Baptism” were placed on the side facing the altar while the “Nativity” and the “Adoration of the Magi” were placed on the opposite side. The reliefs were coupled according to the style of the characters represented and their matching state of conservation.
13To substitute the modern parts that completed the frames, the final cornice and the Verde di Prato (a greenish kind of marble) stone base, Castellucci designed ornamental elements that accurately reproduced the model basing his reconstructions on incomplete medieval decorations.
- 14 ASOPD, Pos. A, Ins. 343, Castellucci's report, Florence June 25, 1921. The architect recommended (...)
14To substitute the classic architrave and complete the pillars with inlays, he designed new ornamental elements with decorative motifs inspired by the pulpit of the nearby San Miniato al Monte Church (remarkably similar to the decoration found in the Arcetri pulpit), as Castellucci declared in his project report14.
15The formal language of the fragments varies from piece to piece. In the architrave of the San Miniato pulpit, decorative motifs are repeated with mechanical precision and in the series, the marble surface was sanded and polished so traces of the work of trepans and chisels were completely eliminated. On the other hand, the craft of the final cornice and the inlaid frame around the “Deposition” more closely resemble the older model in order to achieve an overall stylistic coherence. The motifs are not repetitive, instead they follow the variety of the medieval decorative repertoire, they have a less clearly defined outline and they do not have identical dimensions. Even the surface treatment is different and the flat chisel marks have not been eliminated.
- 15 “TRES TRIA DONA FERUNT DONNA FERUNT TRINUM SUB SIDERE QUERUNT”, refers to the relief of the Nativ (...)
16A more drastic operation, carried out nevertheless by the craftsmen with great skill, is the reconstruction of the inlay of a marble element with the inscription “tres, tria...”15. The stone tesserae of this element followed the design of one of the old corner pillars together with the one that was placed before 1921. With the new arrangement given to the fragments, the element would be placed under a modern pillar, so that the lacunae with missing tesserae had to be adjusted to the design of the new pillar (fig.4).
Fig. 4 Element before and after Castellucci’s restoration (1921)
The inlays of the fragment with the inscription follow the design of the above placed pillar. The different arrangement used in 1921 placed the position of this fragment underneath the other pillar, and changed the design of the inlays
Credits: Alinari Archive. 1906 and Luca Lupi.
17The project of the new pillars aimed at completing the typically Tuscan decorative program of the bi-chromatic inlays, which embodies the Florentine character of the pulpit. The design of the new inlays, easy legible, refers to a local cultural and artistic background, interpreted, nevertheless in a modern way. The stone tesserae have a lighter, geometrical design, and their smaller size, compared to the medieval tesserae, results in a new balance of color, with the predominance of the white from the substrate over the green-black of the tesserae (fig. 5).
Fig. 5 Detail shot of an inlay
The central pillar was made in 1921 by the Opificio. In the illustration we can clearly appreciate the difference between the design of the modern inlay and that of the medieval elements.
Credits: Luca Luppi.
18Modern inlays were made using the traditional technique. It consists in carving the cavities in the substrate material so it holds the tesserae, according to a previously established design. This is done with the help of a small trepan (called a “violino”) and chisels. Modern stone tesserae, cut with metal blade coping saws and abrasives, are finer than the original stones, and have regular faces.
19The pulpit's restoration, restituting its medieval aspect, was based on the idea that the historical interventions can be deleted and the integration with new elements is legitimate. Above all it was necessary to integrate the image, completing the decorative repertoire of the missing inlays, in order to recover the local character of the work.
20Furthermore, the repetitive character and the lack of regard for these decorations as an artistic expression when comparing them to sculptures or paintings legitimated any sort of integration. The sensibility towards the Romanesque in the 19th century, that interpreted art as an immediate translation of the artist's thought, fueled the belief that only some artistic typologies, like painting, carried the mark of the artist within them. This idea was alive during the first half of the 20th century. For this reason there is no lack in this period of mosaic workshops that follow the principle of the “fabbrica continua”, that is, they keep on employing traditional techniques in the restorations.
- 16 Lamberini, 2003
- 17 Camillo Boito, who initially supported Le Duc's theories, didn't refrain from condemning them af (...)
21What we can deduce from Castellucci's restorations is a renewed philologicalattention, in line with Boito16. In the first place, it includes a respect for the picturesque character of antique marble. According to this concept, the new fragments were given a patina so they would visually “merge” with the original fragments. The latter were not subjected to any cleaning operation, thus respecting the patina of time. A second interpretation, seen from a positive perspective, involves the character of the design and the materials of the new inlays, making them easily recognizable against the medieval decorations. It is true that the working method of the time considered integrations necessary to give unity and stability to the piece.The restoration had to enable the understanding of the medieval work of art. At the same time, these new elements, if produced in a way that would make them look antique, would enable them to be interchanged for the older elements, and that would mean the deception of the public17. The question of whether the design of San Miniato's decorations is interpreted, instead of copied outright as a result of Castellucci's conscious decision is difficult to answer.
22Observations carried out during the recent restoration made the chronological identification of each architectonic element possible. The medieval elements show a series of differences in relation to the additions: workmanship, intrinsic characteristics of the stony materials, state of conservation and nature of the patina treatments.
23The results of these observations have been complemented with the results obtained from chemical, mineralogical and petrographical analysis of the patina and mortars found in the pulpit. They have also been complemented with the unprecedented documentation from the 1921 intervention. This data allowed us to trace a chronological map of the piece. Finally, a comparison of the two reconstructions made it possible to study the arrangement given to each element before and after 1921 (fig.6).
Fig. 6 Chronological mapping of the elements of the pulpit
The map shows the medieval elements of the pulpit in gray and the ones added by Castellucci in colors. Each color distinguishes the position of each element before 1921. Red indicates that the element was placed on the right side before this reconstruction, orange means the element was on the front and yellow is for the ones situated on the left side before 1921.
Credits: Marta Gómez.
24One of the objectives of the present restoration was to introduce new elements in order to integrate the inlays that had lost their tesserae. These elements were needed to restitute the image of those decorations.
25The little attention paid in the past to the problem of the lacuna and, in general, to the lack of critical thinking about the theoretical problems presented in the restoration of inlays and mosaics, has created an ambiguous situation regarding the integration methodologies adopted.
26On the other hand, this artistic typology has been traditionally considered as a manual art. Actually, the problem of integration, from a philological point of view, was initially considered exclusive to the field of painting restoration.
- 18 Fiori, Vandini, Casagrande 2004. Muscolino, Tedeschi 2003, p. 27-32. Ardovino 2003, p.17-26. Fosch (...)
27Nowadays, once these obstacles have been overcome, there is no lack of proposals, ideas, and thoughts18, which, starting with Brandi's theory, try to examine the integration of each artistic typology in depth.
- 19 The reference here is to interesting debates during the AISCOMtalks. In the last years some diss (...)
28This is, however, a complex problem that poses new challenges for the future. In the first place, from a technical point of view, the huge variety of cases has created a wide array of practical solutions, which, only in part, have been codified19. On the other hand, this is an operation that evidently deals with the aesthetic message, modifying the social imagination and the historical memory that acts as a filter for the public's perception of the work.
29In this line of thought it is worth making a brief remark about the current situation. Nowadays, we often witness media-friendly restorations whose main purpose is the public display of the work of art. In these interventions the aesthetic aspect is the most relevant and the integrations carried out are rather deceptive.
30In this context, and despite the attempts to think over the matter of the last years, especially about different kinds of lacunae, the need to propose a critical judgment of the problem and to keep exploring the construction of new modules of organization of thought in the integration of lacuna becomes clear.
- 20 Cordaro 1985, p.365-373
31Theoretical problems about the treatment of lacunae related to the proper presentation of a mosaic, are dealt with for the first time by Michele Cordaro20.
32The lacuna in the work of art is defined in general as an absence, an emptiness, a loss more or less consistent and located. In the inlaid marble and, in general, in the artistic typology of the mosaic, the lacuna is not only a lack of color, but an interruption of the pattern, that is, of a complex tridimensional system. Considering this character, the lacuna, can affect, therefore, several levels of conservation, from the loss of the inlays and/or the substrate to the loss of the mortar.
- 21 An example worth mentioning are Ravenna's mosaics, in which such gaps were used by the artists t (...)
33The perception of the pattern, as a complex space with empty and full areas, forms the base of the renewed philological activity. For this purpose, we can make a reflection about its constituent elements. In the first place, the inlay is characterized by a surface continuity, since each element is at the same level, and therefore reflects the light in an uniform manner, as if it was a mirror. Other essential elements are the gaps created between the substrate and the inlays encrusted in it. A first, superficial glance might make us consider it a compact entity. The created spaces, however, contribute to the threedimensional effect21. On the other hand it's a space that has its own color, the color of the mortar that fixes the elements to the substrate, and that can be a relevant problem if we think that it can highlight the colour of the inlays, or the opposite, highlight the pattern more than it should be highlighted .
- 22 As Brandi indicates “the lacuna appears as a figure in relation to the background”, it's theref (...)
34In short, the treatment of the lacuna in the inlay, not only concerns the restitution of the image, but also the structural integration that brings solidity to the work. An operation aims at the resolution of a double problem: the first concerns the conservation - the lacuna is a symptom of degradation; the second is of an aesthetic nature - the lacuna implies an interference in the pattern and in the worst caseit can be perceived as a figure embedded in the pattern22.
- 23 The Italian theoretician was interested in the theories of shape promulgated by Gestalt princi (...)
- 24 Nevertheless, the shape and color escape defined systems, given their illusory and relative compo (...)
35In fact, the color and shape that we perceive in a lacuna change our interpretation of the image. Many reflections in this field have gone in depth into the rules of visual perception and the philosophical theory of the shape established by the Gestalt Psychology23. Referring to the visual rules of a lacuna establishing the extension and position, the proximity between a number of lacunae, and the study of their surroundings, leads us to the rationalization of the integrative solutions proposed, in the best possible manner24. Solutions to be implemented should be based on a respect for the values of recognizability, reversibility and compatibility of the materials.
36In the current restoration of the pulpit of Arcetri, three lacuna typologies were established based on the absent materials, the area, and the position of each one in the decorative ensemble of the pulpit. Based on the different kinds of lacuna described and the possibility of integration and the characteristics of the inlay, three types of integration have been proposed.
37During the disassembling of the architectonic elements of the pulpit in 1921, the inlays placed on the joints between those elements were destroyed. The hollow voids were integrated with plaster during the above mentioned restoration. The plaster repairs were painted with green paint. Across the surface of this paint, abrasions and substantial losses of color were observed that show the grayish mortar beneath.
38The integrations that have lost their color completely are perceived from a distant position as a wide light area, formed by white marble and grayish plaster. In this case, the lacuna has a clear figure value that causes a not entirely correct interpretation of the chromatic equilibrium. In the cases where the color layer is partially preserved, the integration is shown by the concave, distinct contour of the void. The removal of the modern plaster has created a type of lacuna, characterized by the interruption of the image and the discontinuity of the surface. In this case it is possible to integrate with new elements resulting in an exact position and design (fig.7).
Fig. 7 Integration of the cavities
On the left picture we can appreciate the lacuna of the voids and the plaster mortar that would have been applied in 1921 and that had lost its color layer. On the right picture there is an image of the process of inserting the synthetic inlays.
Credits: Marta Gómez.
- 25 “Templum stucco” is an epoxy based epoxy-based mortarand selected aggregates. It presents mechani (...)
39The chosen method consisted of integrating with synthetic inlays adhered to a slaked lime mortar. The new elements were made with a resin25, handcrafted to obtain the shape of each inlay. First, the resin, mixed with a fixed amount of serpentine powder and ebony black pigment, was compacted and placed in a square mold to create a tile. On the surface of the tilethe outline of the cavity to be integrated was drawn. Subsequently, the tile was initially cut with a diamond cutting disc, and then shaped with a grinding bit until the final shape was achieved. The last phase consisted in the polishing of the surface with a felt wheel to obtain a lustrous surface (fig.8).
Fig. 8 New elements for integration
The polishing of the surface with the felt wheel to obtain a lustrous surface.
Credits: Marta Gómez.
40The new elements, two centimeters thick, were inserted into their matching cavities and affixed using slaked lime mortar with a neutral color.
41The application of this method that recreated the inlay technique, allowed us to create an analogous system for the inlay-surrounding space occupied by the mortar. It was also possible to work the shape in situ, as a way to give the element the exact dimension needed when working with the grinding bits.This way, gaps were left, with dimensions closely resembling the example of the medieval model.
42The color that the gap acquired played a role in the recognizability of the integration and made it possible to match the color of an inlay closer to the original, without compromising this principle. In conclusion, a completely reversible and lasting system was created. In this system, the marble is in contact with a physically and chemically compatible material.
43The medieval pillars on the corners suffered loss of volume. They were integrated in 1921 with a mortar. The design of the inlays was recreated with a layer of green paint. The color loss and the opacity of the stucco made the integration noticable, creating an interruption in the image of the decorative ensemble, so our decision was to remove it.
44The integration method chosen was the elaboration of a replica, a unique shape that would enclose the synthetic inlays previously manufactured according to the process described in the first typology of lacuna.
45The replica was made using the same resin employed in the inlays, in white color. The application of this material with a spatula made replication in situ possible, filling up the lacuna while at the same time leaving the cavities ready for the inlays. Once the shape had hardened, it was possible to embed the synthetic inlays. In this case, it was necessary to touch up the white color of the resin with an aqueous solution of pigments in order to recreate the shades of the supporting marble (fig.9, fig.10).
Fig. 9 Integration of the angle of the pillar
The lacuna on the corner of the pillar has been filled with a replica.
Credits: Marta Gómez.
Fig.10 Integration of the corner volume
Result of the integration with the replica.
Credits: Marta Gómez.
46In this area, the lacuna had been treated in 1921 with two different methods. The left side was integrated with a cement mortar, painted to mimic the design of the inlays. On the right side, however, the lacuna was simply filled up with the same cement mortar that was used in the connection of the architectonic elements. Not only had this integration not been painted, but it was applied carelessly with a spatula, often over the marble surface.
47In this case, our decision was to maintain the integration on the left side to avoid mechanical problems. On the other hand, we decided to remove the repair on the right hand, as it severely affected the appearance of the work. Here, the outlines of the cavities were partially preserved, and that allowed us to determine the exact position and size of each new element.
48The optimal solution was to craft one element that recreated the support-gap-inlay system in order to guarantee a conceptual logic and an effect of visual perception of the work as a whole. This integrating element was fixed to the surface with a magnet placed on the background plaster, which also offers the possibility of reversibility.
49The new element was formed in three levels. The first one is made of a resin fiber mesh, cut following the profile of the lacuna. Over it a layer of epoxy resin loaded with white marble granules was applied. The second level matches the marble surface. The synthetic inlays were fixed to this surface using a two component resin following the contour of the lacuna. Finally the hollow spaces between the inlays were filled up with the same resin in a white color (fig.11, fig.12).
Fig. 11 Integration of the inlaid Frame, of the “Presentation at the Temple”
In the picture we can observe three details of the integration with the new element, attached with a magnet to the surface.
Credits: Marta Gómez.
Fig. 12 “Presentation at the Temple” relief
Picture taken after the restoration.
Credits: Marta Gómez.
50 A defining goal in the inlaid marble integration project was to make a thoughtful and critical reflection on the subject of the lacuna, based on the experiences of the last years.
51The most important result of the restoration is the recovery of the once lost figurative context. This operation has shown that any integration - once the preservation and restitution of the potential unity of the work of art is finished - has to be planned at each phase, assessed and weighted in a critical manner, resulting in the creation of methodologies corresponding to the state of preservation, the analysis of the components and the historical and artistic identity of the piece.