August 1, 2021

The restorer of vertigo | Culture

The restorer of vertigo | Culture



"The most complicated thing was to overcome the vertigo." The Italian restaurateur Franco Blumer climbs a scaffold to gild the sculpture that crowns the needle of the Cathedral of Milan. Since they placed the Madonnina up there, in 1774, it became the symbol of the city. Look down and discover the almost 110 meters high that separate it from the ground. It's October and a hell of a time ago. It does not make things easy for a restoration that could go through a Cirque du Soleil spectacle. The four-and-a-half-meter statue is made of bronze and golden leaves, and it has stopped shining. Blumer must recover its splendor using 6,750 sheets of pure gold, very similar to a decal … in the middle of the storm.

The restorer invents a container half a meter high to shelter from the wind and to be able to adhere the gold sheets, without the precious pigment flying out. Applies by the head, face, neck, shoulders and arms, the most affected areas and where more gold stickers used, "to ensure greater resistance." Blumer speaks with this newspaper and is proud to have been "the first to intervene in the statue on-site" The three previous restorations that tried to update Giuseppe Bini's work were carried out in August and the piece was dismantled.

Find a Madonnina that corrodes inside. Copper could not stand being so exposed and still alive, impeccable. The gold had been destroyed and deteriorated. It was crumbling and going down. As in any self-respecting restoration, there was surprise and it was not pleasant: the restorer of 1967 painted the figure with a synthetic protective layer ("zapan"), to make gold an indestructible shield. However, the product was not antidote, but poison and accelerated the degradation process. It opened cracks, pustules, cobwebs and corrosive salts. A bleak panorama. So Blumer had to scrape by hand, up there, all the ruinous areas. Once he cleaned the huge sculpture, after removing the residues and drying the surface, the golden process began.

"The gold sheets are hand-produced stickers, at our request, by Marino Menegazzo, from the Mario Berta workshop in Venice, the last goldsmith in Italy." And maybe from Europe. Near the Rialto Bridge is the studio, it is the same place where Titian lived more than five centuries ago. Marino works with his wife and two daughters (since 1969), creating the gold plates based on hammer blows on marble, until turning them into the fine scales with which Blumer covers the Madonnina

It takes about 20 minutes to reach the top of the statue. Take two elevators, walk the roofs, climb four floors of scaffolding and, finally, the staircase that leads to the tip of the needle. There is the sculpture of the Madonnina, the Assumption, with the look and open arms, asking for protection for the city to god. Until 1954 nothing could be higher in Milan than she, no building had the right to overcome it, until the Breda Tower rose 117 meters above the ground. He says that the worst day of his climbs to the summit was when he found himself completely enveloped in the fog.

Since that October 2012 he lost his fear of heights and became the specialist in recovering the heritage in the abyss. "I have never returned to work in such a difficult situation," he says, but his commissions on the heights have multiplied and he has recovered other figures in northern Italy such as the statue of St. Michael the Archangel, at the dome of the Madonna's Shrine. Tirano, or the bell tower of the Paladina parish, to restore the life of a Saint Alexander. Blumer is the clear example that restoration is not for anyone: "You can not improvise in such an important and delicate sector. It is a job for which we need training, commitment and continuous updating. " In Italy, the restorers await the list of qualified professionals for the restoration that will be published by the Ministry of Cultural Assets and Activities.

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