Focus on the facades
The museum facades are decorated with impressive 19th-century sculptures. How and when were these statues installed?
The gallery at the front of the museum building, where busts of celebrated artists are displayed, is named the ‘Loggia Pellarin’ after the Pellarin brothers – mosaic specialists from Sequals, in northern Italy, who created all of the museum’s floors in 1890.
The mosaics on the balcony suffered more than most, with 130 years of rain, sunlight and steadily increasing vehicle exhausts all taking their toll. A black layer had formed on the floor and the grout between the little tiles had deteriorated badly. The floor had also developed a few slight cracks due to structural stresses in the building.
In the course of the past year, the damage has been restored by Gino Tondat – who shares the Pellarin brothers’ roots in Sequals – and Sarah Landtmeters of the Mosaico di Due studio in Antwerp.
Their first step was to remove the surface dirt using pumice stones. This gave them a clear view of the cracks in the floor and the places where tiles were missing. Having rubbed down the surface in this way, it was clear that the floor had not previously been tackled.
The next stage was to deal with the cracks and to replace the missing tiles with identical, hand-cut marble blocks from the same period.
Using a centuries-old Italian technique (boiacca all’ antica), they covered the floor with grouting, which they then immediately wiped away, leaving the grout slightly lower than the mosaic tiles. This firmly anchors them in place, while retaining the original look of the old floor.
As a final step, the floor was rubbed down again and then treated with linseed oil soap.
In the meantime, Mosaico di Due continues to work on a newly designed mosaic floor. When this is complete, they will have treated all the museum’s floors, just as the Pellarin brothers once did.