Pietro Edwards and the restoration of the public pictures of Venice, 1778-1819: necessity introduced these arts
Darrow, Elizabeth Jane
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Pietro Edwards (1744--1821) served as the Director of the Restoration of the Public Pictures of Venice and dedicated his life to the preservation of Venetian art. His visionary spirit and meticulous bureaucratic administration resulted in revolutionary developments in art conservation. The situation in Venice during these years was unique in restoration history because the city's location demanded an early awareness about the destructive effects of a maritime climate on art. The government also expected written reports and management of its art which was also unique in conservation history. While acting as a restorer and inspector through years of technical and theoretical study, Edwards devised a unified method of theory and practice that included a respect for the artist's original intention. He promoted professional standards including public disclosure of treatments, environmental solutions to problems, reversibility principles in the use of materials, and he established the first conservation laboratory in Europe. He invented the team approach to conservation projects that today is still operative in Italy and he proposed the very first plan in Europe (and perhaps anywhere) to create a school to train professional restorers.Edwards' impact was felt on the cultural life of Venice for over forty years. In 1797 the Republic of Venice fell to Napoleon, who ordered the appropriation of many famous works of art from the city and Edwards was appointed to manage their removal and shipment to France. He continued his work for the French Regno Italico (1807--1814) and later governments of Austria (1814--19). He was instrumental in the creation of the Brera museum in Milan, selected the first collections to establish the Galleria dell' Accademia in Venice and wrote its first catalogue. Throughout his long life he advocated for increased respect for the restorer and promoted scientific research as the necessary foundation for restoration practice. Pietro Edwards' written record is unparalleled in conservation history and frames the same philosophical debates that continue today about the proper role of the restorer in maintaining the aesthetic aspect of a work of art.
- Art history