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Technology Helps Restore Raphael Masterpiece

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Author Topic: Technology Helps Restore Raphael Masterpiece  (Read 57 times)
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« on: October 28, 2008, 03:19:27 pm »


Known in Italian as the "Madonna del Cardellino," it shows the Virgin with two children symbolizing the young Christ and John the Baptist. The goldfinch is a symbol of Christ's future passion because the bird feeds among thorns.

When the Nasi house collapsed in 1547, the work shattered into 17 pieces. Ridolfo di Ghirlandaio, a Raphael contemporary, used nails to join the pieces and paint to hide fractures.

It later became part of the collection of Florence's powerful Medici family, who commissioned several interventions aimed primarily at covering traces of the fissures.

For the past 10 years, Patrizia Riitano, 52, has been living, breathing, dreaming and touching Raphael. It has been her right eye that has been scrutinizing him and her right hand that has been cleaning and retouching him.

"I am just a technician," the chief restorer of the project said with humility. "But, yes, I think I probably know this painting almost better than Raphael. He looked at it, sure, but all these years I have been looking at it with a microscope."

She lifted the painting out of a wooden box with the confidence of someone who has done it many times -- like a mechanic changing a tire -- but then gently positioned it at the center of an easel with the love of a mother adjusting her child's scarf on a winter day.

"To think of it, I have spent more time with him than with my daughter," said Riitano, a 30-year veteran of restoration.

Earlier restorers covered cracks and painted outwards, painting over Raphael's brushstrokes. She instead removed the coverings and painted inwards to reveal more Raphael.

She mostly stopped when she reached the original transparent varnish that Raphael put over the painting after he finished, so Riitano knew that everything below that was his. Some traces of time and travail were kept to maintain overall equilibrium.
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