FROM THE KELSEY CONSERVATION LAB
Following a brief hiatus from display, the Kelsey Museum’s famous renderings of the Villa of the Mysteries fresco cycle are once again on view. Commissioned by Francis Kelsey himself in the mid-1920s, the watercolors were painted by Italian artist and archaeologist Maria Barosso at a scale of 5/6 the size of the original frescoes in Pompeii. The watercolors captured the vivid color of the frescoes before color photography existed. They have served as an important educational tool and document of the paintings’ condition at the time the renderings were created. The original frescoes have darkened significantly since the time of the Barosso commission, and they are currently undergoing laser cleaning by conservators at Pompeii (http://www.archaeology.org/issues/124-1403/features/1813-pompeii-saving-the-villa-of-the-mysteries).
The Museum was able to put the watercolors on permanent display for the first time in 2008, thanks to the space provided by the Museum’s new Upjohn Exhibit Wing, and an IMLS grant to support their conservation treatment and installation in the galleries. Conservators at ICA Art Conservation (http://www.ica-artconservation.org/) carried out this complex treatment, as well as some recent repair work to the watercolors’ mounting system that required their temporary deinstallation. It took about three days to reinstall the massive panels, the largest of which is 5 x 20 feet.
We are so grateful to conservator Jamye Jamison, Chris Pelrine and 05 (that’s right, our colleague’s name is zero – five) for all their hard work!