Italian postwar developments

The development of modern Italian restoration approach owes much to the contribution of Benedetto Croce (1866-1952), an eminent philosopher, writer, teacher and historian as well as politician. Together with Henri Bergson, he has been identified as part of the 'contextualist' line in the modern philosophy of aesthetics. His scholarship, humour and common sense inspired the rebuilding of modern Italy, and he became the symbolic figure in the fight against Fascism. His thinking was based on the 'organistic' Hegelian school in classical Romantic philosophy. He contributed especially to the development of the modern concept of history, and modern historiography, conceiving History as the unique 'mediational' principle for all moments of human consciousness, which itself remained completely spontaneous, without a predetermined structure. He emphasized the quality of the whole of an object over the qualities of its details. He created a method of aesthetic appreciation, which was independent of practical as well as of social and economic implications. He saw as one of the main problems of aesthetics the restoration and defence of Classicism against romanticism, seeing there the essence of pure art against emotions (Croce, 1989; Croce, 1990; the aesthetics were further developed in Italy, e.g., by L. Pareyson, 1954).

Croce made an important contribution to the conceptual basis of the later restoration theory, especially as it emerged in Italy following the Second World War. Some of the main figures in this debate, G. C. Argan, R. Longhi, R. Pane, R. Bonelli, P. Gazzola, G. De Angelis and C. Brandi, have been influential in the formulation of the principles that have since become the foundation for the critical process of modern conservation and restoration, and are expressed in international guidelines and recommendations. After the establishment of museum laboratories in Berlin (1888) and London (1919), others followed in Cairo, Paris, USA, Munich, Brussels and Rome. The idea of creating in Rome a central national institute for the conservation of works of art matured in the 1930s as a result of initiatives by G. C. Argan and C. Brandi, two principal protagonists in the development of the Italian conservation-restoration policies. Such policies were formulated into a theory of restoration, and even though the differences between architecture and the other types of arts have often been noted, Giovanni Carbonara has emphasized the unity of methodical approach applicable to all types of heritage (Carbonara, 1997:11). Rather than being a 'model for restoration', it describes a methodology and a critical approach to the examination and treatment of objects with heritage values - including architecture, and it represents a logical outcome of the modern conservation movement.

Giulio Carlo Argan (1909-94) has been one of the foremost art-historians in Italy, first general inspector in the General Directorate of Fine Arts, then Professor of the History of Modern Art, and finally Mayor of Rome. He formulated the proposal to establish a central state institute and a school of restoration of works of art and presented the proposal at a meeting of superintendencies in July 1938. While considering that each case of restoration had to be seen in its own right, he thought it was possible to unify the criteria and methods. In order to promote these ideas, and taking into account the richness of cultural heritage in Italy, he proposed the foundation of the Central Institute of Restoration (Istituto Centrale del Restauro). The institute was conceived as working alongside other authorities responsible for the care of cultural property, and was to be given all technical and scientific means necessary for the collection and selection of the methods and criteria of restoration, and an in-depth study of field experiences. The proposal was approved, and the new institute was created in 1939 with Brandi as the first director.

During the 1930s, the concepts of architectural restoration had been discussed at length, and the general guidelines defined, while the treatment of works of art and mural paintings needed updating as they were still taken care of primarily by artists and craftsmen. Argan and Brandi reflected on the need to found the restoration of monuments and works of art on a unified, scientific basis. The aim was that restoration should not have the purpose solely of reintegrating losses, but to re-establish the work of art in its authenticity, hidden or lost, and thus focus primarily on its material (Argan, 1938; Argan, 1989; Brandi, 1985). Argan emphasized that restoration, rather than artistic talent, required historical and technical competence as well as great sensitivity. He maintained that it should be based on a philological survey of the work of art, and should aim at the rediscovery and display of the original 'text' of the object so as to allow a clear and historically exact reading of it. He distinguished between two methods:23

1. 'conservative restoration' (restauro conservativo), giving priority to consolidation of the material of the work of art, and prevention of decay; and

2. 'artistic restoration' (restauro artístico), as a series of operations based on the historical-critical evaluation of the work of art.

The first can be more generally identified as 'conservation'; it includes prevention, as well as the necessary operations to maintain the status quo of a historic object. The aim of the second, the artistic restoration, is to re-establish the aesthetic qualities of the object if disturbed or obscured by over-paintings, poor repairs or restorations, oxidized varnishes, dirt, or losses (lacunae). Arbitrary integrations, addition of figures, or new tonalities, even if 'neutral' are not permitted. The necessary tools for critical analyses can include the scientific laboratory when this is requested. This second definition for the restoration of works of art became the basis for the development of modern restoration theory in Italy.

The strictly conservative approach towards the treatment of a work of art simply meant

'shifting restoration activity from an artistic to a critical sphere'.24 As Brandi later commented, it was this critical approach towards the appreciation of the work of art that represented the novelty in the formulation of the task, which only indirectly could be considered mechanical, and really belonged to the liberal arts (Brandi, 1985:34). With these definitions, Argan enlarged the basis of restoration theory and provided the foundations for later developments of concepts by Brandi as the Director and teacher of the Institute. Apart from being concerned about works of art, Argan was deeply conscious of social aspects as well, and emphasized the urban character of art. He maintained that art was not limited to the official 'court art', but that this was complemented by the provincial production as the basis of civilization (Argan, 1984:19ff). It is not by chance that, in 1977, he was elected the Mayor of Rome and held this position for three years. In this task, he was able to promote the conservation of an entire city in all its aspects, interfering at significant moments to protect its historic character (Brandi, 1985; Ferrari, 1985).

The destruction caused by the Second World War came as a shock to the Italians. An immediate reaction by many was the feeling that these destroyed historic buildings and historic towns should be restored and rebuilt, even though this seemed to go against the established conservative guidelines. It seemed difficult to find generally applicable rules, as each case appeared to be special (Annoni, 1946:15). The situation was summarized in a meeting at Perugia in 1948 by De Angelis d'Ossat, then Director General of Antiquities and Fine Arts, who divided war damage to historic buildings into three categories:

1. limited damage, which could be repaired with reasonable efforts;

2. major damage;

3. practically destroyed.

There were problems in the second category especially, and the opinions tended to go in two directions: either reconstruction and restoration in the previous form as in the case of the Loggia di Mercanzia in Bologna, or reconstruction in a form that did not repeat but rather conserved what was left, allowing for reinterpretation of the lost parts (Santa

Figure 8.4 The front and the portico of the church of San Lorenzo fuori le mura, Rome, were rebuilt after destruction in the Second World War

Chiara in Naples, San Francesco in Viterbo). De Angelis refused to accept a substantial reconstruction of complex artistic interiors such as those in baroque buildings; instead, he referred to the possibility to use the method of anastylosis as a possible solution within the limits of its applicability. This method was applied, for example, in the case of the Temple of Augustus in Pula, Istria, which was rebuilt using original elements (Ceschi, 1970:180©.

In his theory, Argan conceived the aim of restoration as the rediscovery of a work of art in its material consistency. At first sight, this could seem contrary to what was intended by architectural restoration based on 'the necessity to respect the monuments in the form in which they have come to us', as was defined by Piero Gazzola (1908-79), the Superintending Architect of Verona.25 In reality, both were founded on accurate historical-critical and material analyses, conceived as 'expressions of that cultural maturity, which forms the primary element of any valid achievement',26 and allowing significant additions and elements in the work of art or historic monument to be conserved. Gazzola also emphasized the importance of 'artisanal structures' in the urban fabric, and insisted on the reconstruction of two historic bridges in Verona, destroyed towards the very end of the war. For Ponte Pietra, following careful

Figure 8.5 San Lorenzo fuori le mura, a detail of the reconstructed portico, a mediaeval construction using ancient spoils. New elements were kept plain in order to differentiate from the original

archaeological work, a great part of the ancient Roman masonry was identified and restored using the principle of anastylosis. The remaining, mediaeval and Renaissance brick structures were reconstructed on the basis of existing documentation (Gazzola, 1963).

In the case of Alberti's Tempio Malatestiano in Rimini, the masonry had moved leaving open cracks, and the Gothic choir was completely destroyed. After a long debate, it was decided as essential to re-establish the exact geometrical proportions of Alberti's architecture by bringing the blocks back into

Figure 8.6 The area close to Ponte Vecchio in Florence was rebuilt in modern forms after war destruction, but keeping the same rhythm and volume as before

their original position. The rest was rebuilt in the earlier form. The church of SS Annunziata in Genoa was rebuilt in its original form with original marbles, completing the rest in stucco work. The destroyed portico of San Lorenzo fuori le mura, in Rome, was rebuilt, completing missing pieces in plain marble to distinguish from the original. The brick walls were rebuilt in plain new brickwork without painted decoration. For larger urban areas, that had suffered major damage, such as Genoa, Vicenza, Viterbo, Treviso, Palermo, Ancona, Bolzano, and especially Florence, De Angelis recommended reconstruction following the typical pattern of the destroyed area. Otherwise the new structures were to conform with modern hygienic and functional requirements. This solution was adopted in Florence in the area around Ponte Vecchio, although the results were criticized later.27

In the post-war period, the principles of architectural restoration were again brought into discussion, this time on a new basis with reference to the recent drastic destruction. Neither the philological nor the scientific principles of restoration convinced any more. In 1943, Agnoldomenico Pica compared a restorer to a scientist who jealously guarded dead samples; he insisted that it was necessary not only to look after the documentary and historic significance, but also to take into account the aesthetic and creative values

(Carbonara, 1976:26). Argan had already touched on the issue before the war, and now in the debate following war destruction new attention was given to the aesthetic aspects regarding the restoration of historic monuments and works of art. One of the main contributors to this new emphasis on artistic values was Professor Roberto Pane (1897-1987) of the University of Naples, an expert of UNESCO, and long associated with Croce. He was also interested in sociology, historic towns and the environment.

Pane laid the main emphasis on the aesthetic demands of restoration, though not in the form of stylistic restoration. He disagreed with a 'ripristind (rebuilding) on the basis of analogy, and insisted on a specific and secure basis following the principles of Giovannoni. In principle, he saw it as legitimate to conserve all elements of historic or artistic character whatever period they belonged to, but there was also a need for a critical choice of what to conserve, considering that each monument was unique as a work of art. Restoration should, therefore, help to free hidden aesthetic qualities from insignificant obstructing additions. Here, to be a critic was not enough, and in every restoration there was always a moment when the solution could only be found through a creative act. In such a moment, the restorer could only have confidence in himself, and not look for guidance from the ghost of the first architect.

Figure 8.7 The interior of Santa Chiara, Naples, restored after bombing in 1945; the mediaeval structures were reintegrated through an intervention in modern forms

In 1944 he wrote about the restoration of the mediaeval church of Santa Chiara in Naples, which was badly damaged in bombing on 4 July 1943, and where the rich baroque interior was almost completely lost. His article became an important declaration of the emerging new principles of 'restauro critico'. After a critical assessment, it was decided to conserve only the remaining mediaeval structures, and to complete the rest in modern forms. The problem that Pane posed was not technical, but rather how to do the work so as to give new life to the church, and to show its historic and modern aspects in a balanced way. He felt that the limits imposed by the earlier guidelines were too rigid and incapable of a satisfactory solution to the problem. Instead, restoration should be conceived in a new dimension, including a creative element, and, if well done, could itself become a work of art (Che il restauro e esso stesso un'opera d'arte sui generis . . .). Pane took note of the fact that the whole area had suffered bombing, and that this could give an opportunity, in town-planning terms, for the 'liberation of the monument from the ugly things that have oppressed it for centuries' (Pane, 1948:35).

The concepts of Argan and Pane were given a somewhat different emphasis by Renato Bonelli, born in 1911, professor of history of architecture at the University of Rome, who defined restoration as 'a critical process, and then a creative act, the one as an intrinsic premise of the other'.28 He saw the possible approaches towards a historic monument to be either a respect for its existing condition as a document full of human richness from the past, or a responsible initiative to modify the present form of the monument in order to enhance its value, to 'possess it fully', and to purify it from later stratifications so as to reach its 'real form' (vera forma). The aim was to restore the monument to a 'unity of line' (unita di linea) in the most complete form with an 'artistic function' that it had accomplished (Bonelli, 1945:30). The operation took into account the architectural ideal of the present period. In order to display an otherwise coherent architectural unity, this could mean removing stylistically 'alien' elements, such as a baroque altarpiece from a church by Brunelleschi to enhance the Renaissance spatial quality, or the row of shops (originally from the fifteenth century) from the side of Ferrara Cathedral to appreciate the mediaeval monument in full. Although Bonelli strongly condemned 'stylistic restoration', the difference sometimes remained subtle, and his approach was strongly criticized by Pane (Bonelli, 1963; Bonelli, 1995:27; Pane, 1987:171ff; Carbonara, 1976:63ff). Nevertheless, Bonelli became one of the principal theorists of 'restauro critico', where emphasis is given to the specificity of each historical object, and the impossibility to use pre-ordered rules or dogmas. Restoration had to be undertaken case by case depending on the object itself, as well as on the critical sensitivity and technical competence of the restorer, based on a thorough knowledge of history of art and architecture, and the restorer's creative capacity.

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