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One of the unique specialisations of the Centro is the study and conservation of wooden artefacts, and furniture in particular.
Over the years the laboratory has developed specific expertise in the study and restoration of Piedmontese cabinet-making, and is continually involved in works on the residences of the Royal House of Savoy and other preventive conservation projects.
In recent years the laboratory’s staff has given its support to studies on the 18th century cabinet-makers and sculptors to the Royal House of Savoy, such as Pietro Piffetti, Luigi Prinotto and Giuseppe Maria Bonzanigo, whose major works have been studied and restored for both exhibitions and research projects.
Particular lines of the study were dedicated to cleaning methods for gilt and polychrome wooden furnishings and furniture, and the study and conservation of Oriental lacquered artefacts.
The generous spaces of the laboratory have a fully equipped carpentry shop and a special area for treating works affected by biological attack, where works needing biocide or disinfestation treatments are kept.
Following sophisticated forensic investigations conducted by the Heritage Protection Unit of the Piedmont Carabinieri, this masterpiece completed by Piffetti in the later years of his life was returned to its original home after having been illegally exported from Italy more than 50 years ago.
The Centro restored the two-part desk and side shelves immediately after it was located, in view of its pending display in the exhibition entitled “Il Piffetti ritrovato e altri capolavori” at the Reggia di Venaria.
The restoration consisted of the selective removal of the extremely recent top layer of paint, leaving the older layer underneath it intact.
The monumental altar frontal, in five parts, measures an overall 3 x 5 metres and is entirely inlaid with mother of pearl, engraved and polychrome ivory, gilt brass, tortoise shell, lapis lazuli, jasper, tiger eye, rosewood and ebony.
This complex restoration aimed to allow the work to be correctly interpreted again through carefully calibrated cleaning, adopting both traditional and innovative methods, repositioning fallen parts and replacing missing ones. Almost 300 pieces of inlay and mother-of-pearl had detached or were missing, and the gilt work on the brass fillets tracing the outlines of the decorative patterns that make it even more precious and opulent, were virtually illegible. The restoration was promoted and sponsored as part of the “Restituzioni 2018” initiative by Intesa Sanpaolo, and is currently exhibited at the Reggia di Venaria.
The great new exhibit at the exhibition entitled "Genio e maestria. Mobili ed ebanisti alla corte sabauda tra Settecento e Ottocento”, held at the Reggia di Venaria in 2018 was the signed and dated wooden choir, which left Piedmont and Italy after the Napoleonic suppression. The work, originally from a Piedmontese monastery, had been exported to Ireland, and after being purchased by a Roman antiques dealer, was dismantled and kept in crates in London. The wooden choir, with 28 stalls inlaid with figures in ivory and Maple burl, arrived at the Venaria divided into 211 parts, which were carefully studied and documented prior to the disinfestation, cleaning and consolidation work and the complex reassembly process.
You can see the Centro’s contribution to the publication, edited by Allemandi, here
La scrivania è uno dei pochi arredi firmati e datati dall’ebanista piemontese Piffetti nel 1741, nel periodo di piena ascesa dell’artista alla corte sabauda. L’opera è giunta a Venezia alla fine degli anni Venti del Novecento per vie antiquariali ed è oggi conservata nel Museo del Settecento Veneziano di Ca’ Rezzonico. Ospite illustre a Torino in diverse mostre, dal 2018 è in prestito alla Reggia dove fa parte del percorso espositivo di “Sfida al Barocco” (2020).
Il restauro dell’opera è stato condotto dopo un’attenta fase di diagnostica, che ha seguito il protocollo da anni attivo presso i laboratori del Centro, che ha previsto la tomografia integrale e una serie di analisi non invasive per la caratterizzazione dei materiali preziosi tra cui tartaruga e avorio.
Il problema conservativo principale è stato denunciato proprio dalla TAC che ha guidato i consolidamenti strutturali necessari per garantire la stabilità dell’opera dall’architettura lignea sinuosa e complessa nascosta sotto il prezioso rivestimento in legni esotici, avorio inciso, tartaruga. Un’attenta e calibrata pulitura ha permesso una migliore lettura delle decorazioni eburnee raffinatamente incise al bulino.