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The restoration laboratory and the warehouse

The collection of ancient Russian icons of Intesa Sanpaolo hosted by the Galleries of Leoni Montanari Palace generates a number of activities devoted to their preservation and valorization, which goes far beyond their exhibition to the public. Next to the library – an important center for iconographic and documentary studies in itself – an adjacent restoration laboratory has been set up, equipped with the best available technology. Given the great interest for this art form which has recently arisen in the West, today the restoration of the icons has a great value not only for the sake of preservation: it is indeed indispensable for a true knowledge and a historiographic understanding of the works. Until not long ago, in fact, the tablets were only given a religious meaning; they had an eminently liturgical function in Orthodox churches, or in specially devoted corners of Russian homes, where they remained covered with metal cases and blackened by the smoke of candles, or were repeatedly “retouched” and repainted. A careful study of the film of paint and of the supporting materials, before the actual restoration work, now allows one to know and often to revive the forms and hence the meaning of the works more than in other artistic genres, thus fully recognizing their aesthetic value. This is why the work of the laboratory is supervised by a scientific committee under the direction of Mr Carlo Pirovano, whose members are restoration experts and historians of Russian art such as Engelina S. Smirnova, John Lindsay Opie, Eva Haustein-Bartsch, and Vladimir Sarab’janov.