Works are in progress on the majestic Organ of Duomo di Milano, which, since March 2019, has been subjected to the delicate restoration of wooden parts, electric and mechanical components and precious doors of the 16th and 17th centuries, the work of artists, such as Giuseppe Meda and Camillo Procaccini.
After dismantling and restoring the wooden components of the lower choir, such as panels and caryatids, Studio Quartana, to which Veneranda Fabbrica assigned the task, moved to the higher levels, completing the side of the Organ facing the Main Altar, which presents refined and sophisticated engravings and a small dome-shaped temple with statues and angels. Only two levels facing the Northern Sacristy have still to be completed on the northern side.
Hence, the restoration work was carried out in several phases, as described below.
Phase One: dusting and calibrated suctioning with EPA filters to avoid damaging the detached parts and to remove a thick and substantial layer of greasy dust and atmospheric particles, which are hazards for the work’s preservation and protection. Dusting, a very long process carried out with soft brushes, has not been completed as yet.
Phase Two: the work then proceeded by testing the cleaning process on small parts of the complexion of wooden statues, such as the face of the Blessed Virgin, and on gilded and polychrome surfaces. The exquisitely carved sculptures with their hollow shapes present many undercuts and projections, which required further cleaning to remove the deposits, also using a water-based surfactant and solvents to clean the deteriorated surfaces + alcohol-based surfactants for the final residue.
Complexions and gilded parts retouched with porporina, or synthetic paints on a very thick bolus preparation, typical of dabbled gilding*, were cleaned very gently.
The final restorations focused on removing the porporina touches that, used in the past to repair deficiencies in the gilding, worn areas, swollen areas and detachments, had become oxidised in the course of time. Hence the need to reduce their number using previously tested surfactant blends. Swollen areas and detachments were reduced by infiltrating aliphatic glues to restore adhesion to the wooden base, but since the glue had to be diluted with water and dabbled gilding is sensitive to water, the surface was protected with acrylic resin to avoid damaging the gilding.
The final phase concerned integrations. Deficiencies in the gilding were covered with metallic gilding wax, which is entirely reversible and non-synthetic, such as porporina (subjected to oxidisation).
*In the bolus gilding, the substrate is made of a clay base combined with animal glues on which solid gold sheets are laid to cling perfectly. By allowing the underlying surface to be perceived, they have influenced the final colour of the gilding with warmer hues.
This is only the first step towards completing renovation works on the largest Organ in Italy, and one of the first ten largest organs in the world. This masterpiece of highly skilled craftsmanship and music will glow and sing once again with the support of all those who will wish to contribute to the fund collection campaign “15.800 notes for Duomo di Milano”.
Become a donor and you will receive invitations for concerts at the Cathedral and for many other initiatives scheduled for the new cultural season 2020. Thank you!