Caravaggio Restoration

QUICK! Somebody buy me a ticket to Rome!

Caravaggio’s Adoration of the Shepherds (1609, shown above) is going to be restored, starting next week, and the public is invited to watch the restoration process. According to The History Blog, small groups of tourists and students will be invited to watch the restorers work. Apparently, there isn’t too much restoration work which needs to be completed; the project is scheduled to end in February.

Swoon! I would love to be there. I heart Caravaggio SO MUCH.

  • LeGrand says:

    We just covered Caravaggio today in my class. I had forgotten how fun he is to discuss. And my class was really swooning today too! After discussing one of his paintings for a while, I kept having to hint that we needed to move on to a new painting. At which point about 3 more hands would shoot up into the air so they could add more to the conversation.

  • heidenkind says:

    Actually, I'm not a big fan of Caravaggio–but I wouldn't mind going to see the restoration. 😉

  • joolee says:

    Big, BIG DITTO. I'd love to be there too!! Caravaggio became a fave of mine during our study abroad.

    My sister might be going to Rome, I'll have to tell her! She's an art student at Southern Virginia Univ.

  • Al says:

    I think a free trip to Rome for any reason is something I would jump at!

  • e says:

    Ooooooooh, how neat.

    Now, in my ignorance, I'm hoping you'll explain the restoration process and in regards to this painting, what needs to be restored?

  • M says:

    I'm not quite sure what needs to be restored. I read here that the painting needs to be "touch[ed] up," which makes me assume that some paint has come off. But I couldn't say. Another guess is that the painting might need to be cleaned in some areas – after all, it's 400 years old!

  • M says:

    And Al, I agree, any excuse to go to Rome is a good excuse! 🙂

  • e says:

    So, in restoration processes, they'll actually add paint to a painting? This is something I've never even thought of. For someone to come in and ADD more paint to the original work?? Wow. Is it weird I find this so shocking? It just almost seems wrong.

  • ixoj says:

    Luckily for you, the Italians almost never do anything on time. Start saving now and I'll bet they'll still be working on it next July!

  • M says:

    Yeah, e, painting is often sometimes added in the restoration process, if there has been a loss of paint.

    Sometimes the repainting of a work of art proves to be rather controversial. When Leonardo da Vinci's Last Supper underwent a major restoration between the 1970s-1990s, there was a lot of criticism about the repainting. Some scholars argue that Leonardo's original work isn't even visible in the fresco anymore, since it was so heavily repainted by restorers.

  • e says:

    I find that very tragic. I kind of think I'd rather the paintings breakdown with time than have them be "restored" by another artist. Seriously, makes me sad just thinking about it.

  • vort says:

    All restorations, additions or subtractions are carefully recorded. The processes can easily by reversed if in the future any better process is discovered or new information about the piece is discovered.

    "The Last Supper" was already in such a state of deterioration that any intervention was done to save anymore deterioration. Any restorations done after the cleaning were to shore up the continuity of the composition. A high resolution scan can be seen here

    It can only be hoped that the government restorers are taking the same care with the Caravaggio.

  • M says:

    Thanks for your comment, vort. It's nice to read someone's opinion in favor of the da Vinci restoration. You make a great point about maintaining continuity in the composition, and I can see what you're saying.

    Also, thanks for the great link to the Last Supper image – it's so fun to see the image in such high resolution!

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This blog focuses on making Western art history accessible and interesting to all types of audiences: art historians, students, and anyone else who is curious about art. Alberti’s Window is maintained by Monica Bowen, an art historian and professor.