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The Beauty of Time

It is always a great and deep emotion to discover a long-kept secret: it is a mixture of risk, of wonder, of trust. It is the feeling of being privileged because you are considered worth the truth. This doesn't happen very often with people, but it recently happened with art, - or history, to me.

I have been lately working on a terribly-preserved wall hiding some fresco decorations in #Tuscany, #CastiglionFiorentino, near #Arezzo. Ancient decorations were covered with lime in a very humid setting, probably to preserve them from ongoing deterioration or because the room had been used for a different purpose than the original. Painting can roughly date back to the early 1800s.

The restoration process used to uncover the layers is named #scialbatura. The term, as well as the verb #scialbare, derives from the Latin "exalbare" which is equivalent to "whiten", "plaster" to calcina. In the context of pictorial techniques, the term is used with two different meanings: 1) "snout" or "squeak" may indicate the application of a last layer of light mortar on a plaster. It is a technique before the laying of #glass #tiles in the mosaic and the application of the color in the #fresco. In this case, essentially "snout" is used as a synonym for lime. 2) the term #scialbatura, or "scialbo", may indicate a layer of light plaster given over a mural painting that can be removed during #restoration.

Here below I am going through a few steps of the #process, although being excited and impatient, I actually didn't use the proper #scalpel when I took the first picture :)

Removing scialbi, called #descialbo, is a very delicate operation that can jeopardize the preservation of the underlying paint, if not carried out with appropriate precautions. In the current language, the snooping term can also indicate the act of superimposing a lime layer to a fresco to cover it and not make it visible. When a fresco was damaged or badly preserved, it often happened that it was covered with lime or paint, in order to maintain a fresher and cleaner look of the space. It is only in recent times, indeed, that we have developed and improved attention to preservation of ancient artworks.

It was lovely and tender to recognize the shape of a tiny fisherman on a boat, most likely pictured in a lake landscape that may evoke the near #Lake #Trasimeno, nestled between Tuscany and #Umbria.

"Ancient art has a specific inner content. At one time, art possessed the same purpose that books do in our day, namely: to preserve and transmit knowledge. In olden days, people did not write books, they incorporated knowledge into works of art. We would find a great many ideas in the works of ancient art passed down to us, if only we knew how to read them." G. I. Gurdjieff

While it will be challenging and fascinating to study and decrypt the meaning of the painting, I decided not to uncover the whole artwork and keep the secret of such a discovery as a whispered conversation between me and the house, something that is not meant to be heard from everyone.



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