The restoration laboratory of the Vatican Museums is home to one of the largest collections of paintings and sculptures in the world. This is where ancient and priceless pieces of art come for a face-lift.
Art restoration requires the use of highly non-invasive tools to minimise the impact on the work. Laser technology answers these criteria and can be used in conjunction with tradition cleaning techniques.
“This new technology is really fantastic,” says Guy Devreux, director of the marble laboratory. “But it’s not a miracle cure. We’re obviously continuing to use the other methods we’ve been using up to now. The laser gives us that bit extra in the sense that it allows us to hone the cleaning process, it allows us to clean in a way we never could have done with another system.”
Strictly controlled tests are carried out before the cleaning process starts to make sure the pulses of light bombarding the object in question do not penetrate it. Many of the artefacts at the Vatican Museums’ ethnological department contain feathers, which are particularly difficult to restore.
“There are many feathers in the museum’s collections and it’s really tricky cleaning them because they are so delicate. We can’t use traditional cleaning methods that are often mechanical – like micro-aspiration, or chemicals with solvents or even water,” says conservator, Catherine Riviere.
Restoring ancient artefacts to their former glory thanks to state-of-the-art laser technology is a shining example of how the past can meet future in perfect harmony.