A Pictorial Agon: Experiments with Oils in Mural Painting, from Leonardo to Vasari

Part of the research seminar series Conserving Histories of Art

  • Date: Nov 30, 2022
  • Time: 05:00 PM - 06:30 PM (Local Time Germany)
  • Speaker: Maria Gabriella Matarazzo in conversation with Francesca Persegati and Fabio Piacentini
  • Location: Villino Stroganoff, Via Gregoriana 22, RM 00187 Rome. In person and online
  • Contact: john.rattray@biblhertz.it
A Pictorial <i>Agon</i>: Experiments with Oils in Mural Painting, from Leonardo to Vasari
The recent restoration campaign of the Hall of Constantine in the Vatican Apostolic Palace has confirmed that Raphael authored the figures of Iustitia and Comitas, executed in oil on plaster. This talk will situate Raphael’s plan to paint the Vatican room in oils in the broader context of the experimentation with this technique that took place in Central Italy in the first half of the sixteenth century.

The breadth of the oil on wall phenomenon demonstrates that the greater perishability of this medium as compared to fresco turned it into a testing ground for painters to display their technical and intellectual prowess. It would seem that Leonardo’s experiments with oil binders in his murals posed a technological challenge that younger artists such as Raphael, Sebastiano del Piombo, Giulio Romano, and even Giorgio Vasari intended to take up. This talk will bring to light motives behind the endeavors to perfect the process of oil painting on wall in relation to evolving stylistic intentions and the expression of new figurative content, thus characterizing oil on wall as a major locus of technical experimentation and innovation in Italian Renaissance painting. At the same time, the talk will assess how the conceptualization of the material fragility of this medium led to the development of pioneering conservation strategies.

To join the seminar on Zoom, please click here.

Maria Gabriella Matarazzo is currently a Melville J. Kahn Fellow at Villa I Tatti, The Harvard Center for Italian Renaissance Studies. She received her PhD in Art History from the Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa, where she subsequently obtained a postdoctoral fellowship co-funded by the SNS, the Archivio del Moderno, and the Fondazione 1563. While developing her new project on oil mural painting in Renaissance Italy, she is completing a book manuscript on the notion of chiaroscuro in Seicento art and art theory, which builds upon her doctoral dissertation.

Francesca Persegati is Maestra Restauratrice e Capo Restauratore dei Laboratori Restauro Dipinti e Manufatti Lignei dei Musei Vaticani.

Fabio Piacentini is Maestro Restauratore del Laboratorio Restauro Dipinti, responsabile del progetto di restauro dei dipinti murali della Sala di Costantino, Musei Vaticani.

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