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SG207 Program E

Restoration: Theory, Ethics and Issues

2 Units
Instructor: Prof. Max Cardillo


Mornings: Lectures 1.5 hours (4 weeks)

Course Description

This course examines the purpose and goals of preservation. Beyond technical issues, lie matters of philosophy, ethics, cultural values  and “best practices” that influences the work of restorers. These issues are very important, because misguided restoration work is a major cause of destruction or falsification of an irreplaceable cultural heritage. In a field where there are no simple answers, this course, will teach students to assess the goals and values that guide and influence restoration and conservation.

The course is aimed primarily at students of art history, art, architecture, restoration, anthropology, archaeology, museum conservation, and management of cultural heritage.

Course Objectives

Summary of Lecture Content

Transformation time and memory

• Entropy and reorganization

• Time as a measure of entropy

• Present past and future

• Memory and foresight

• Types of memory

• Cultural heritage as collective memory

• Restoration preserves memory

• Curators edits of collective memory

What is the value of things we preserve

• Aesthetics

• Historic

• Religious

• Symbolic

• Scientific

• Functional

Transformations done to cultural objects

  • Recycling and collage of old material

  • Anastilosis

  • Restoration

  • Conservation

  • Additions

  • Completions

  • Adaptive reuse

  • Substitutions

Types of Restoration

  • Artistic

  • Artistic in style

  • Scientific

Motivations behind restoration

  • Preservation of cultural heritage

  • Commercial or economic interest

  • Institutional policy

  • Nationalism

  • Religious motives

  • Obsessive behavior

Ethics of restoration

  • Veracity and transparency

  • Reversibility

  • Preserving multiple values of objects

  • Cultural heritage as collective human property

  • Owners as custodians of the collective property


  • When is art or an object whole

    • Original intent of the artist

    • Material integrity

    • Cultural integrity

    • Historical integrity

    • Contextual integrity

  • Degradation of integrity

  • Potential unity of the (Cesare Brandi)

  • Fragmentation

Phases of restoration

  • Consolidation

  • Cleaning

  • Preservative treatments

  • Presentation and Integration


  • Evaluating necessity

  • Does dirt have historical value

  • Dirty patch

  • Cleaning to last layer of dirt

Presentation and Integration of art (retouching)

  • Modulation of lacunae’s tonality

    • Monochromatic

    • Chromatic modulation

    • Chromatic abstraction

  • Integration

    • Mimetic

    • Semi-mimetic

  • Tratteggio (rigatino)

  • Puntini

  • Chromatic selection

  • Down toned or simplified retouching

  • Sculpture, buildings, books, ceramics


  • Spatial

  • Cultural

  • Historical

  • Perception

  • Psychology

Space of Paintings

  • Pictorial plane

  • Pictorial space

  • Viewers space

Space of Sculpture

  • Mass of the sculpture (negative space)

  • Surface of the sculpture

  • Space of action of the sculpture

  • Space of the viewer

  • Space transformed by the sculpture

Space of a building

  • External space of the building

  • Internal space of the building

  • Mass of the building (Negative space)

  • Viewer’s path

Frames, borders, pedestals, covers, margins

  • Protective edge

  • Psychological or visual transition


  • Conservation

  • Accessibility to the public

  • Decontextualization

  • Contextualization

  • Collections


  • Substitutive

  • Reconstructions

  • Pedagogic

  • Revivals

Completions of Unfinished Objects

  • Functionality

  • Status of unfinished condition

Strategies of Preservation

  • Preservation laws

  • Restoration guidelines

  • Cultural risk maps

  • Dispersion of cultural heritage

Cultural property

  • Private

  • Heritage of local communities

  • National heritage

  • World heritage

Descriptions of Assignments

READINGS: Cesare Brandi, Theory of Restoration ICCROM


Class discussion of reading material
Term paper 1: 5 page paper on a topic to be assigned
Term paper 2: 5 page paper on a topic to be assigned (only graduate students)

Earlier Event: June 23
FT1 Intersession Field Trip
Later Event: July 8
SG208A Program E