A multidisciplinary team of art experts and microbiologists from the Polytechnic University of Valencia, traveled to Italy in order to learn the Colalucci technique, cleaning with bacteria, in order to apply it to the seventeenth century frescoes made by Antonio Palomino in the Church of the Santos Juanes of Valencia.
The technique was developed by Giancarlo ranalli and applied it for the first time to clean the frescoes of the Monumental Cemetery, a 13th century cloister next to the Tower of Pisa.
Spanish murals were damaged twice in less than half a century: by a fire in 1936 and then in the 1960s due to a terrible restoration. In the latter case, the restorers used a glue of animal origin to replace the separated frescoes. Over time, the glue hardened, leaving an insoluble film.
It is now that the restorers of the Heritage Restoration Institute They will begin to improve the work using a digital printing technique to fill in the paint cracks, but their attempts have been thwarted by the accumulation of crystallized salts that remained after the fire.
Traditional methods of solving these problems either require the use of toxic chemicals (that are not selective and can damage other elements) or applying a mechanical scraping which can take a long time and damage the subsequent paint.
Against this background, the microbiology professors Rosa María Montes Estellés and Pilar Bosch, together with a Doctor in Science and Heritage Restoration, traveled to Italy to learn about the Colalucci bacteria technology, where it is already known that experts use cotton to apply the strains of bacteria in the selected areas.
In nature, there are bacteria that feed on almost anything, so the first step will be to choose which one to use and from there, promote its development. In the case of Valencian frescoes, Pseudomonas will be used, so that they devour the salinas and other adhesive residues that the fresh ones have. In this case, small balls of gel will be applied, as they can be applied more quickly, more evenly and covers the entire surface, preventing moisture from penetrating the paint.
So far, the Valencia team has tested the gel with Pseudomonas in two specific areas of the Church and the entire restoration is scheduled to take about three years, while scientists continue to experiment with different species of bacteria, with the surfaces and with the various harmful elements.
Church Image: Cathedrals and Churches on Flickr
Image Rosa Maria Montes: History Blog
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