Materials and methods
Vault: made of a horizontal composite wooden framework situated just beneath the tie beams of the trusses of the roof, to which secondary warps made of oil painted plastered wattle mats are connected. Although it was originally a lightweight structure old restoration work destroyed its self supporting system.
Walls: fresco with some areas painted a secco, various different preparatory drawing techniques can be noted (spolvero, battitura dei fili, direct incision, incision using a cartoon).
Recorded restoration work
In 1781 Academy professor, Giovanni Bottani, undertook the restoration of the vault and in 1782 architect Paolo Pozzo designed a plan to strengthen it. In 1789 Bottani and some of his pupils restored the paintings and decorations.
In 1906 restorers Luigi Cavenaghi and Francesco Steffanoni tried unsuccessfully to perform a transfer by strappo of Cupid nocking his arrow in the semi-octagon and in 1909 Florentine restorer Fabrizio Lucarini tried to remove other panels using the technique of strappo, again without success.
Between 1912 and 1918 Dante Berzuini, initially custodian and later painter-restorer, was engaged to consolidate the colour in the vault; in 1918 he restored the fresco of Mars and Venus bathing, damaged when a powder keg exploded.
In 1929 static restoration was carried out and supports were added.
In the early 1940s Arturo Raffaldini restored the frescoes and the ceiling (stabilising the plaster and removing earlier repainting).
After initial work in 1982/83 and preparatory tests, this was performed by the Istituto Centrale del Restauro.
Conditions prior to restoration
Vault: the structure showed signs of earlier damage; the wattle matting was warped and parts of the plaster, gold leaf and paint surfaces were missing; also visible were traces of repainting and a brown patina that altered the colours.
Walls: parts of the plaster missing, damp, bulging in the lower part of the North wall, previously filled with plaster; salt efflorescence and blanching (previously a protective layer had been spread on top); paint flaking off, particularly in the areas where the dry painting technique had been used; some repainting in the lunette of Psyche taking a tuft of gold wool and on the Banquet scene table.
Work carried out
Vault: an adhesive was injected from the extrados through to the wattle matting; the matting was attached to the supporting structure with metal features; the paint layer was consolidated and then cleaned.
Walls: the paint layer was stabilised and surface dust and earlier restoration were sponged off with water and surfactant. Once stabilised, the plaster stucco work was removed and the losses were filled with lime and sand mortar. Bulging was treated by removing the plaster used to fill it and the plaster was then fixed back on the wall with lime mortar.
"Cupido estrae la freccia dalla faretra" (semiottagono sud) prima del restauro con le tracce del saggio di strappo di Steffanoni.
Cupid extracting his arrow from the quiver (south semi-octagon) before restoration, with signs of Steffanoni’s sample removed by strappo (photo: "L'Istituto Centrale del Restauro per Palazzo Te", 1994)
Ottagono con "Venere che addita Psiche a Cupido" prima del restauro.
Le foto sono tratte da "Bollettino d'Arte", volume speciale "L'Istituto Centrale del Restauro per Palazzo Te" (1994).
Octagon with "Venus pointing Psyche out to Cupid" before restoration (photo: "L'Istituto Centrale del Restauro per Palazzo Te", 1994)
- L’Istituto Centrale del Restauro per Palazzo Te, volume speciale del “Bollettino d’Arte”, Ministero per i Beni Culturali e Ambientali, Roma 1994.
- BELLUZZI A., Palazzo Te a Mantova, Panini, Modena 1998, cap. IX; pp. 446-456.