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Restoration of the Apartment of the Secret Garden (2011-2014)

Secret Garden Appartment before and after the restorations (Photo by Guido Bazzotti)
Floor of loggia, before and after restorations (Photo by Guido Bazzotti)
Floor of grotto, before and after restorations (Photo by Guido Bazzotti)
Floor of vestibule, before and after restorations
Loggia and external loggetta - during the restorations
Reconstruction of the roofs
Reconstruction of the roofs
Reconstruction of the roofs
Reconstruction of the roofs
Courtyard of Secret Garden Apartment

The important restoration work carried out on the delightful apartment of the Secret Garden is part of the commitment of Palazzo Te and the Municipality to ensure Giulio Romano’s villa the best conservation possible. As part of the prevention and conservation work planned for the period 2011- 2014 in this beautiful corner of Palazzo Te, restoration involved the Courtyard with its Aesop's fables (2011-2013), the frescoes and decorations of the Loggia and external Loggetta (2013) and the river pebble floors (2013-2014).

The work was completed with re-roofing (2013-2014). After the improvements carried out in the summer of 2013 in the rooms of the palazzo, the Apartment of the Secret Garden was subject to repair in early 2014. A new generation LED lighting system was installed to replace the now outdated halogen and incandescent lighting from the eighties. In its new guise the apartment of the Secret Garden is now unquestionably more enjoyable to visitors.

Stefano Benetti - Director Civic Museums, 26 April 2014


Restoration of the river pebble flooring

Work carried out by restoration company: Consorzio Arkè (Rome)
Cost: € 11,500.00 - Financing: Municipal Administration

Type of work
The floors of three rooms in the apartment (entrance vestibule, Loggia and Grotto), albeit with some differences, were all characterized by missing pebbles and mortar with a danger of further loss of pebbles due to progressive crumbling of the mortar. Layers of dust and oily debris of various kinds dulled the spaces between the stones and obscured the colour and clarity of the decorations.

There were also small areas of inconsistent restoration in cement mortar to remove and damage caused by microorganisms, especially relating to the floor of the loggetta.

The job involved the cleaning of all surfaces, removing moss, consolidation where necessary, removal of inappropriate restoration and suitable grouting of the missing parts, restoring clarity to the decorations and bringing back the original colours of the materials. (C.P.)

Loggia and external Loggetta

Restoration of the decorations and frescoes in the Loggia and external Loggetta

Work carried out by restoration company: Marchetti & Fontanini, Toscolano (BS)
Cost: € 25,000.00 - Financing: Municipal Administration

Type of work
The Loggia that overlooks the Secret Garden is in a semi-confined environment subject to damage caused by damp mists and nighttime condensation, especially in the lower part where damp has also definitely always risen from below. The most poorly conserved area was the base, which showed falling paint, though not original, and losses from the most recent previous restoration.

The fresco decorations and wall stucco and vault showed lifted and falling paint, as well as being covered with considerable atmospheric particulate. The job included: dusting of the painted and stucco surfaces, cleaning of the frescoes, consolidation of the preparatory layers, filling of small gaps, consolidation of small lifted areas of paint and restoration of frescoes and stucco with watercolour hatching or wash.

The external Loggetta was in fairly good condition with regard to the frescoes, restored in 1989, but had problems in areas that had not been restored at the time, as in the case of the columns and stone shelves, broken and affected by extensive biological damage, the terracotta-tiled floors, largely missing, and the wall structure bearing the columns where bricks were missing and in need of replastering. In detail the work on the external loggia included: dusting of the painted and stucco surfaces, cleaning of the surfaces, filling of small gaps, consolidation of small areas of lifted paint, restoration of frescoes and stucco with watercolour hatching or wash, biocide treatment on the stone parts, cleaning and consolidation of the marble, grouting and microgrouting, treating with a protective layer, reconstruction of the paving with reclaimed terracotta tiles of similar size, thickness and colour to the original, reconstruction of the wall with replacement of missing bricks and subsequent plastering with mortar of lime and sand. (C.P.)


Reroofing Chamber of Attilio Regolo, Camera grande, Camerino degli Uccelli

Work carried out by: Public Works Sector,City of Mantova. Designer: Arch. Nascig
Cost: € 70,000.00 - Financing: Municipality and Regge Gonzaga - Cariplo

Type of work
The job consisted in: complete dismantling of the tiled roof and hollow tile layer, with recovery and cleaning for re-use on-site; removal of debris and waste materials (tiles, hollow tiles etc.), which added extra weight to the structures, from the abutments of the vault and the extrados of the wattle ceiling; replacement of severely deteriorated joists (due to infiltration or wood-feeding insects) or whose section was too small, with recovery of hardware (handmade iron nails) used to fix to the underlying beams; anti-woodworm treatment of all wooden structures; supply and installation of iron elements to support the wooden structures constituting the main framework; replacement of hollow tiles, with additions where necessary of similar ones in size and shape; supply and installation of waterproofing layer; tile roofing using for the missing parts tiles recovered from the dismantling and from reclaimed material; emptying and cleaning the gutter (already in copper), with addition of metal fixtures. Removal of the roof also provided an opportunity to make anti-seismic improvements. (M.n)


Restoration of the decorations of the inner Courtyard

Work carried out by restoration companies: Marchetti & Fontanini, Toscolano (BS) and Consorzio Arkè (Rome)
Cost: € 30,000.00 - 1st step Financing: Commission for the Architecture and Landscape Heritage, Brescia
Cost: € 20,000.00 - 2nd step Financing: Municipal Administration
Cost: € 30,000.00 - 3rd step Financing: Fondazione BAM

Type of work
Completely exposed to the elements, the fresco and stucco decorations of the Courtyard of the Secret Garden in the past had been only partially restored to repair damage of an emergency nature. The work carried out between 2011 and 2013 was instead systematic and aimed at a total recovery of the decoration.

As for the intonaco on the lower parts of the walls, plaster with cement binder was removed and cracks in the wall closed; the wall was thoroughly washed with mains water sprayed at low pressure and brushed for removal of residues of plaster and encrustations of soluble salts, broken bricks were consolidated and new plaster and a final biocide protection were applied.

The mural paintings were dusted and any small debris found within the areas to be consolidated was aspirated. This was followed by consolidation in depth of the preparatory plaster and finishing coat, demolition of odd bits of plaster restoration and margins protruding over the original surface, repair of cracked plaster, cleaning of the surface and removal of deposit and the removal of soluble salts in the surface layers of the lower band of the fresco, removal of repainting from previous restoration, biocide treatment of the surface and subsequent removal of biological onset, filling of gaps and damaged plaster, reintegration using watercolour to restore clarity to the painting and application of final protection with biocide properties.

For the stucco work the parts to be consolidated were dusted, with aspiration of any small debris fallen within the lifted parts, consolidation of the preparatory and finishing layers, repair of cracked plaster, treatment of iron elements (nails, reinforcement) by brushing and sandpapering, treatment with biocide of the surfaces and subsequent removal of organic coatings, cleaning of the surface and removal of traces of repainting from old restoration work, demolition using a scalpel of any restoration unsuitable in composition or conformation, filling of gaps and cracks and damaged plaster, harmonization with watercolour of surfaces and application of final protection. (C.P.)