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The city art museum in Todi conserves a jewel of the Renaissance architecture: the wooden model of the Tempio della Consolazione.

In the Sixteenth century the production of wooden models and architectural mockups is consistent, for they held a dual purpose: to allow the customers to visualize the project they commissioned and to serve as a guide for the artisans and stone masons, especially when encountering any problems during construction. In 1629, after the monument is completed, the model is carried to Rome by the architect of the Factory of St. Peter Carlo Maderno seeking council for some unfinished work; in 1660 Maderno travels to Rome again seeking advice from Francesco Borromini on how to protect the Temple from moisture.

The travels of the model never ended and in the last few years have increased: among many of the wooden models of Renaissance architecture, Todi’s model is among the few to have been perfectly conserved, and is often requested for important art exhibitions in Italy and abroad. A few examples include The Renaissance, from Brunelleschi to Michelangelo at Palazzo Grassi in Venice in 1994, the exhibits in Paris and Berlin, the Milan Triennale, the recent shows in Urbania and Perugia.


The restoration of the Temple of the Consolazione, photo by Sandro Bellu


In 2007, with the contribution of the Lions Club in Todi, the model underwent a careful and accurate restoration process by the hands of Roberto Saccuman Snc with close surveillance of the Umbrian Cultural Patrimony Superintendence. The restoration was also a moment of study for the University of Tuscia’s Agrarian Faculty, tasked with recognizing the different species of wood, and for its Art History Faculty, assigned with the analysis of pigments. The studies with ultraviolet florescence and infrared reflectography were conducted by Davide Bussolari’s Diagnostics Studio for the Arts Fabbri. The results were surprising and unexpected and Roberto Saccuman, who coordinated and conducted the work with his team, revealed to us the most interesting details and secrets.

The model was made out of poplar tree wood, it measures 120x120x150 centimeters and is composed by a heptagonal base sustaining the central body of the building, the tambour, the dome and the lantern roof.

Through the centuries, the model underwent restorations and retouches, visible especially in the architectural elements rebuilt by using stone pine wood and of a different thickness.

The Southern apse shows a slight difference in craft probably connected to a variation of the project during the construction; there is an indent inside it which was probably made to fit the main door, never completed. The void was filled by using an inferior quality of wood, even if of the same type as the original. All of the model’s mobile components are oriented correctly thanks to a cross-shaped runner etched on the sides; the final lantern roof on the contrary does not have a matching inset.

On the heptagonal base of the monument there are five holes: the central one, square shaped, was probably used to mount the model on a stand for better viewing; the others are placed according to the pillars and are used to correctly insert the base. The orientation of the holes, with their slightly rectangular shape, forbid mistakes during mounting, especially because one of them is oriented differently from the others.


The heptagonal base of the monument, photo by Sandro Bellu


During restoration, the base was blocked and stiffened by a twin set of large crossbeams and by a peripheral frame, slightly moved towards the back. These superstructures, probably dating back to the nineteenth-century restoration, would prevent it from closing. The recent restoration work removed all the added parts and returned the model to its original function.

By detaching the body of the model, fixed with nails to the base, a drawing of the plant of the building was revealed, invisible to viewers in its entirety since the 1800s. The infrared investigations allowed further understanding by revealing what remained of the old guidelines drawn with graphite pencil, invisible to the eye because covered with a layer of light blue pigment, over the chalk and glue preparation outlining the exact blueprint of the temple.

On the contrary, the ink lines accurately defining the drawing and the metric scale are still quite readable. Interestingly, the date, 3 8bre 1963 L P, was deciphered by applying UV lighting.

The surface of the model had been completely painted: after analyzing it carefully, the body resulted covered in one coat of white color made of calcium carbonate and oil, probably spread in one solution without any preparatory phase. On the domes, a preparatory layer of chalk and animal glue was laid, followed by a layer of pigment composed of indigo and calcium carbonate.

A number of plaster fillings made with Bologna chalk and animal glue, closing the number of crevices and tiny indents on the surface, were consequently retouched with tempera colors. During restoration these materials were greatly altered, giving the artwork into an unfair dark-greyish tint. A careful cleaning of the surfaces, the retrieval of the base’s function, the reconstruction of the missing elements and the chromatic reconstruction have finally returned the model to its ancient beauty.

There is a serious risk of losing our identity: the earthquake that hit central Italy in 2016 destroyed everything. There is a feeling that, while passing through the state of emergency and reconstruction, something must be done to counteract the loss of ties, links and territorial knowledge in Umbria as well as the other regions, in particular about cultural, historic and artistic heritage.

This exhibition has this precise aim and it has been inaugurated on March 5th, in Rocca Albornoz of Spoleto, and it has been organised by the Region of Umbria, the Ministry of Cultural Assets, Activities and Tourism, the Archdiocese of Spoleto – Norcia and the town of Spoleto, and it will last until July 30th, 2017.

Ospiti in Rocca

The event is part of Discovering Umbria project, made by Sistema Museo and promoted by the Region of Umbria to support and enhance museum activities. The exhibit Treasures from Valnerina opens with Ospiti in Rocca. All the works on display have a very high symbolic significance, such as a XVI century wooden Crucifix from the church of Sant’Anatolia di Narco, the XVI century Madonna with Child from Avendita di Cascia and the Annunciation by Andrea della Robbia from the beginning of the XVI century, which is composed of two sculptures in glazed terracotta – the Virgin and the Archangel Gabriel – which originally were placed in the Church of SS. Annunziata and kept in Castellina Museum of Norcia, from where the odd Magistrate’s ballot box, made in the XV century, also exhibited, is from. From other regions there are the refined painting on wood of Madonna with Child by Nicola di Ulisse da Siena from the Diocesan Museum of Ascoli Piceno and the San Sebastiano from the second half of the XVII century from Scai, the area surrounding Amatrice.

Another selection of works rescued from the damaged churches and museums in Valnerina will be on display from April 9th, in order to enhance the exhibition including items recovered and restored in the months since the events of August 24th, 2016.

Other Projects

«After the shakes of August 24th and, in particular, those after October 30th, I have convinced that since Rocca and the Museo nazionale del Ducato (National Museum of the Duchy) had escaped damage, they should assume the role of a point of reference for the territory and for activities that are temporarily experiencing difficulty», says director Rosaria Mencarelli.

But there are many other initiatives, including Lightquake: Donate for reconstruction, a crowdfunding campaign started in February within the artistic project named LIGHTQUAKE, promoted by MiBACT and the National Duchy Museum of Spoleto, in collaboration with the Municipality of Spoleto, The Faculty of Design of the Milan Polytechnic, and the Association of Rocca Albornoziana, in order to support the restoration of works damaged by the earthquake as well as the launch of a shared project to regenerate the area at a regional level, with culture at its heart. Lightquake represents a beacon for reaction and rebirth, “a tremor of light” to instill positive energy and break the darkness of destruction, reigniting the cycle of life and creativity in a land with a rich heritage of masterpieces and artistic excellences. Fundraising contributions, developed in collaboration with the Progetto IMMaginario, may be made through the specialised Starteed platform.

A Necessary Restoration

Hope and commitment; knowledge and understanding for the future. The exhibition is an appropriate reaction to the urgency of cultural assets, in order not to risk to lose our heritage all together. Buildings, churches and works of art must be all restored as soon as possible, otherwise, as I already had occasion to write in the special edition of Predella dedicated to the earthquake, citing Mario Calabresi from La Repubblica of October 29th, 2016: «We will be poorer, as we had lost a piece of our soul».


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