Funerary Vessel with (B) Orestes Seeking Sanctuary at Delphi; Nike Sacrificing a Ram; and a Horse Race; and (A) a Dionysian Scene; a Boar Hunt; and a Horse Race South Italian, from Ceglie del Campo, Apulia, about 350 B.C. Associated with the Iliupersis Painter (South Italian (Apulian), active about 350 B.C.) Terracotta H: 44 1/8 x 22 x 19 1/2 in. Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin VL.2008.5
Conserved Funerary Vessel, South Italian, from Ceglie del Campo, Apulia, about 350 BCE, associated with the Iliupersis Painter, Terracotta, Antikensammlung, Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (courtesy Getty Villa)

The 19th-century art restorer Raffaele Gargiulo was so good at reconstructing Greek vases, one antiquarian called it a “dangerous perfection for knowledge.” Filling in broken gaps with his own paintings, mending cracks with brass staples, his work was a potential threat to history. One of his creations was recently undone, and the six-year conservation project is central to Dangerous Perfection: Funerary Vases from Southern Italy, now at the Getty Villa in California.

The Getty Villa is hosting an interactive online presentation on Gargiulo and a krater found at Ceglie del Campo in southeastern Italy. The feature doesn’t have any fancy bells or digital whistles, but it’s an intriguing narrative account of the reconstruction and deconstruction of the funerary vase.

UV Light on the conserve Apulian vase (screenshot by the author from Getty Villa)
UV Light on the conserve Apulian vase (screenshot by the author from Getty Villa) (click to view larger)

After its discovery in hundreds of pieces, the vase was given to Gargiulo to work his magic. As the Getty interactive explains, he was then known to “produce restorations so seamless that even a discerning eye found it difficult to tell what was original and what was restored.” With a deft hand for cohesive detail, he rebuilt the vase and filled in missing areas with figures of his own…

read more: hyperallergic.com

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