MILAN–Just a few steps away from where Leondardo Da Vinci lived and worked, Pia Virgilio and Laura Menegotto, two art restorers, are working quietly in a small studio in a sunny courtyard of an aristocratic palace, whose old palatial rooms are dedicated to the artisan practice.
Pia, who is a porcelain restorer and Laura, who is a painting restorer, have both worked on historic masterpieces who lives have spanned millennia.
There space, where paints are mixed by hand, is a testament to the fact that not much has changed in the painter’s practice refined by Renaissance maestros like Sandro Botticelli and Fra Filippo Lippi.
“To be able to restore something, you have to know its story,” Pia said, noting that some of her most antique projects are pre-historic pagan ritual vessels excavated in Sicily, but her specialty is Renaissance Maiolica, an Italian tin-glazed decorative pottery.
Working in one of Milan’s most upscale neighborhoods, however, she often has private requests to restore 17th century Asian china and ceramics that were popular among aristocrats of the era.
On the other side of the studio is Laura’s hands are colored by her own signature potion of paints that she makes herself.
Laura, who has worked on 19th century Pietro Fragiacomo paintings and pre-Renaissance ones, like a crumbling Giotto fresco, is currently working on a 17th century oil painting by an unknown artist whose identity is up for debate. As her own research and personal library bring her closer to the answer she bemoans the damage done to it in the past by amateurs.
“You can really ruin a painting,” Laura said, shaking her head. “Nowadays this doesn’t really happen. Science and technology has come a long way and helps us a lot.”
IN THIS ISSUE: 5 Vie: Da Vinci’s Neighborhood Today, Fabio Crippa: The Ancient Art of Stone Cutting, Laboratorio Paravicini’s Fashion Plates, Angela Florio of DecorAzione, Italy’s Largest Collection of Da Vinci’s Works , 5Vie: The Art of Restoration Endures, ALSO SEE: BACO STYLE: Lidia Pellecchia’s Sartorial Style, BACO STYLE: Uberta Zambeletti of Wait and See, Al Pascia': Pipes to Leather Goods , Lorenzo Borghi: Old School Milliner