How a 583-year-old Italian mural is professionally restored

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  • Andrea Sozzi Sabatini is the CEO of Etrurio, an olive-oil company in Tuscany.
  • Andrea walks us through how his conservationist, Marco, restores a 583-year-old fresco painting.
  • This includes filling cracks in the wall to make it sturdy, removing plaster that was put over the painting throughout the years, and repainting the fresco with natural pigments.

Following is a transcript of the video.

Narrator: My name is Andrea Sozzi Sabatini, and I'm the CEO and founder of Etrurio. It's a farm where it aims to produce top-quality olive oil in Tuscany. Today, I'm going to walk you through how Marco restores this beautiful 583-year-old fresco.

The first work that we have to do is to consolidate the walls. The first thing is really to take the stones that are unstable, take them off, consolidate whatever is underneath, and then put the stones back to their places. In this large fresco, there are cracks here and there, so the next step is to consolidate these cracks. The cracks get consolidated with resin, special resin.

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The next step is now to remove the plasters that had been painted over the fresco in the last few centuries. And to do that, Marco, the restorer, needs to get archeological scalpel and remove every single bit and pieces out of this huge surface. And it's very delicate work, because if you are not precise enough of course you can damage the fresco itself.

Now that the plaster has been removed, we can apply Japanese paper soaked with water and ammonium carbonate. This is a very delicate process. And the reason why we are doing it is because, thanks to the Japanese paper, all the dirt and all the external component get away from the fresco. And it's a process that can last up to six months.

After all this work, as you can see, the fresco is revealing itself. Some of the colors are now vivid. What was underneath the plaster fortunately is still there for most of it. We are actually applying again Japanese paper soaked with a different product, carbonate hydroxide. And this is a very important part of the fresco restoration, because it stabilize the fresco itself.

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Now that all these processes are completed, Marco can start the second phase of the restoration. As you can see, there's a lot of gaps in the fresco, because some of the paint has faded, some others were lost. He's going to use a very tiny, small brush, and he is going to use a natural pigment, like they were used back in the 1400s.

There has been a surveillance of the Italian authority over this fresco. We are not allowed in Italy to paint back anything that is not present. The whole restoration took a long time. It took 18 months. We are very proud that we didn't lose this piece of art in Tuscany.

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