"Secret" Giotto uncovered in Florence chapel

Mon Mar 8, 2010 11:46am EST
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By Philip Pullella

FLORENCE, Italy (Reuters) - Restorers using ultra-violet rays have rediscovered rich original details of Giotto's paintings in the Peruzzi Chapel in Florence's Santa Croce church that have been hidden for centuries.

"We have uncovered a secret Giotto," said Isabella Lapi Ballerini, head of Florence's Opificio delle Pietre Dure, one of the world's most prestigious art restoration laboratories.

Last year, more than a dozen restorers and researchers began an ambitious project of "non-invasive diagnostics" to ascertain the condition of the 12-meter-high chapel, which Giotto painted in about 1320.

The aim of the study, partly funded by a grant from the Getty Foundation in Los Angeles, was to gather information on the 170 square meter (1,830 square feet) chapel to use as a road map and "hospital chart" for a future restoration.

During the project, which lasted four months, restorers working on three stories of steel scaffolding noted that while viewing the paintings under ultra-violet light, they were able see amazing details not visible to the naked eye.

"It was something really astonishing," said Cecilia Frosinini, co-ordinator of the project that studied the scenes in the lives of John the Baptist and John the Evangelist.

"We knew we could get some very interesting results from our scientific diagnostics but when we looked under ultra-violet light, all of a sudden all these very faint paintings that were ruined by old restorations took on a new life," she said, pointing to one scene while donning protective eye wear.


<p>A combination picture shows an original Giotto painting (L) and the same artwork under ultra-violet rays, exposing greater details, in the Peruzzi Chapel at the Santa Croce Church REUTERS/Alessandro Bianchi</p>