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Prof. Antonio Sgamellotti Delivers “Raphael and His Workshop” Webinar

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On Tuesday, June 30th, Prof. Antonio Sgamellotti offered an exciting, and very well attended, webinar on the famous Loggia of Cupid and Psyche in the Villa Farnesina in Rome. The Loggia is named after its vault decoration painted by Raphael and his workshop in 1518. Contributing to the celebrations of 2020 being designated as Raphael Year on the 500th anniversary from his death, the Webinar was organized by the Andreas Pittas Art Characterization Laboratories (APAC Labs)/STARC of The Cyprus Institute, The Embassy of Italy in Cyprus and the A. G. Leventis Gallery and as part of their collaborative efforts in the broader fields of Art History and Cultural Heritage.

The presentation focused on the history and the art of the Loggia viewed through the prism of heritage science and the related analyses of the materiality of the work of Raphael’s workshop led by Prof. Sgamellotti and Prof. Virginia Lapenta. Furthermore, the webinar also presented the digitization of the Loggia and its virtual representation through an online system (http://vcg.isti.cnr.it/farnesina/) developed by researchers Eliana Siotto and Gianpaolo Palma (Institute of Information Sciences and Technologies, CNR-Pisa).

Following brief addresses by H.E. The Ambassador of Italy Mr. Andrea Cavallari and the Director of the A.G. Leventis Gallery, Mrs Loukia Hadjigavriel, Prof. Sgamellotti shared some of the hidden secrets of the Villa Farnesina. The presentation featured results from the recovery, analysis and restoration of the beautiful wall-paintings of the Loggia of Cupid and Psyche with a focus on the interdisciplinary approach to their study and interpretation. The project is an exemplary case study of the integration of advanced scientific methods and technological applications to provide new knowledge that helps us to better understand the historical and cultural context of the work of an artist like Raphael and his workshop.

The need for the preservation of the Loggia’s wall paintings became an opportunity, first, to analyze and understand their materiality and second, to look at the depicted fruits, flowers, plants and animals in their historical context and to consider the implications for their depiction in a villa in 16th century Rome: The painted representation of 170 species of plants from around the globe, most of them shown for the first time in Rome reflects the contemporary thirst for scientific knowledge, progress, trade and travel. the fact that a prominent artist’s workshop, such as that of Raphael is offering such accurate depictions of these unknown plants provides an exciting insight into the networks of artistic patronage at the time, the refined interests of the educated audience for these works and the role of artists in the Renaissance.

Following Prof. Sgamellotti’s presentation, Dr. Nikolas Bakirtzis, Assoc. Professor at CyI and Director of APAC Labs offered a brief response noting the diverse role of artistic workshops in Renaissance societies. He also emphasized that advances in science and technology must never lose ‘sight’ of the humanities and the value of art history. Innovative interdisciplinary methods and applications in Heritage Science pursued at APAC Labs hold great potential and continue to make significant contributions in archaeological and cultural heritage research.

The Webinar was a prelude of the exhibition "Raffaello in Villa Farnesina: Galatea e Psiche" (dates to be announced) curated by Profs. Sgamellotti and Lapenta and co-organized by the A.G. Leventis Gallery, The Embassy of Italy in Cyprus and The Cyprus Institute, which will present aspects of the interdisciplinary study of the Loggia’s frescoes with a particular focus on the materials and the painting technique of Raphael. Research work integrates the knowledge acquired in past restorations with the very interesting results of recent investigations conducted with the most innovative non-invasive techniques.