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A mosaic studio in the heart of the Vatican

2009-09-25

These mosaics make up one of the many artistic marvels in the city of Rome. And without a doubt, some of the best pieces are inside the Vatican. Though many people know about these beautiful works of art, few know the history behind them.

Paolo Di Buono
Director, Vatican Mosaic Studio

“The first mosaics arrived in the Vatican at the end of the 16th century to decorate St. Peter’s Basilica. From that moment onward there was a prominent mosaic display in the Vatican.”

Thirteen experts meticulously care for these works, some of the most beautiful in the Vatican. Without the work of this team one of the more prized treasures of St. Peter’s Basilica would have deteriorated and been lost forever."

The same procedure is still carried out on the works of art. The pieces are cut and carved according to the size required by the mosaic. With much precision and patience they are set on the frame over a plaster made with oil and wine.

Each single piece of the mosaic is an authentic piece of art in and of itself as each is designed and uniquely created.

This technique allows for the mixing of different types of varnish to make new color tones.

Among the 27,000 base colors the Vatican Mosaic Studio has the ones that are needed most at any given moment. They are heated at some 800 degrees giving way to a unique color tone and characteristic. The same piece can be worked on for five months.

These museum pieces are often the gifts that the pope gives visiting heads of state.

Paolo Di Buono
Director, Vatican Mosaic Studio
“Often, themes like the front of St. Peter’s Basilica or the Christ of St. Peter’s tomb are chosen. Mater Ecclesie is another theme often chosen, which is the mosaic that is seen from St. Peter’s Square that was made after the attempt to assassinate John Paul II in 1981.”

This is how works of art like these are born. They do not always reflect religious themes, and are often reproductions of famous paintings made for collectors. The pieces range in value from 3,000 to 200,000 Euros.

But admiring these works of art is priceless.

BR/RS