Retrieved in 1994 in awful conditions from the humid cellars of the Stupinigi hunting lodge, 11 of the 12 wooden medallions depicting the Savoy dynasty portraits were readily sheltered and placed on racks in a laboratory room specially prepared according to the necessary thermohygrometric requirements. The numerous detached fragments had been collected and sorted into boxes. So, the medallions remained until 2011 when thanks to the generous contribution of the Council for the enhancement of cultural heritage it was finally possible to proceed with their recovery.
The wooden supports, dug internally by the woodworm, were very fragile, inconsistent, turned to dust. Many disarrays, fractures, missing portions.
The restoration intervention required exceptional solutions and proved to be particularly demanding requiring several thousand hours of work and many restorers.
In some cases, the deterioration of the structural system was so advanced as to make it necessary to transpose the only decorated surface sheet onto a new floorboard.
A careful cleaning has recovered, where still present, the original bronze-coloured colouring (the effect that the medallions had initially had was that of bronze reliefs) that was unfortunately mistakenly removed as not recognised as authentic in the twelfth medallion. This one arrived in the laboratory afterwards and aesthetically balanced to the other 11.
The operative choice was to reconstruct all the repetitive decorative elements but in some cases even some lost portions of the faces. In the revival of the dynastic portraits, it has been possible to make use of the ancient engravings of the 17th and 18th centuries as a reference model.
The gentle intervention has been described in detail in A. R. Nicola, L’intervento di restauro in Genealogie figurate – Il restauro e la salvaguardia. Iconografia sabauda a Stupinigi, a cura di E. Ballaira e A. Griseri, 2011
Manual skills, technology and science in an artisan restoration workshop