“A restorer plays the most thankless of tasks. Performed the best, his work is totally invisible. If you get good results it is likely to be considered doubtful to a forger and if that fails is added to the ranks of profane art. His experience is invaluable, his shortcomings too obvious.” —Max Friedländer (1867-1958)
Bentornato! Welcome back! On our tour visiting Rome’s best artisans, we took a trip to an elegant courtyard filled with lush plants on Via Margutta in the historical center of Rome, where Picasso, Puccini and Stravinsky once made their home. We are greeted by husband and wife, Alessandro Pavia and Lycia Giola, who run one of the country’s top restoration laboratories, Pavia Restauro.
I call it a laboratory, rather than a studio, because one entire wall is stacked high with shelves displaying beakers, test tubes and other equipment that could just as easily be there for an elaborate science experiment. But if you look closer, you will also see a vast array of pigments, brushes and other paraphernalia related art.
Pavia dons a lab coat and special magnifying goggles while he gets to work on a colorful piece that dates from the 1960s. Someone else had previously tried to restore the piece using Japanese rice paper, and to make a long story short, it had to be repaired yet again. So although this art-related occupation may seem to be a creative endeavour, it is not so creative as it is precise, and requires a great deal of patience, the same you might expect of a surgeon.
The husband and wife team are highly skilled in treatments such as removing discoloured varnish, mending tears in the canvas and securing flaking paint. Fine manual dexterity is essential to their work, as is the ability to see subtle differences in colour, texture and finish.
I think to myself how frustrating it must be to do this invisible work, yet what a privilege it must be to ‘heal’ these great historical and modern works of art that have been entrusted to this couple’s care.
Towards the end of our visit, one of our colleagues asks if they can restore the “star dust” that has fallen into the bottom of the frame of an old Warhol she’s had since the 1980s. Of course they can—but only if she can ship it to Rome!
‘Farmboy in Roma’ is blog series by FBFA Senior Designer, Fatima Travassos, which offers readers a rare glimpse into the studios of some of Rome’s top artisans. A special thank you to the Italian Chamber of Commerce of Western Canada for offering FBFA the opportunity to participate in this experience.