September 2005 – May 2010
Dedicating my work to the restoration of the majority of Eugenio’s works has been extremely important for me – his adopted son – but it has also been very trying, not only to restore, mount, catalogue and classify, but especially to get to the “root” of a narrative or expressive train of ideas in his works, which aimed to communicate those eternal values for humanity which seem especially poignant today: a love for life and for beauty, respect for the energy of the younger generation and their hopes as well as for the elderly for their wisdom and the strength that they struggled to find to overcome the hardships encountered over their lifetimes, for intelligence, honesty and peace amongst men of all races and religions.
Restoring a work of art is not merely a case of applying dexterous techniques which will avoid altering the bare bones of the work, but what is more important is to recuperate, understand and revive, as far as possible, the same emotions, the same motivations which were the artist’s impetus in creating what he/she did.
I am not a restorer by trade, but I believe that every good artisan involved in this field is occupied with studying all relative issues and materials in an in-depth manner, in order that those details may restore a newly-found splendor in the eyes of the onlooker to works that may be centuries old. I really must say that, as far as I’m concerned, this type of knowledge came directly from having lived with him. With his character, it was not always easy to tolerate him as I was so young at the time, when he already expected me to act as his full-time helper alongside my mother.
All that research carried out together on the quality of the whitewash for his frescoes, the mixing of the base, when he’d perch high above on his scaffolding painting his frescoes, the preparation of the mineral colors: all these things would almost prophetically prepare me for the work that would become my own many years later.
In my restoration work, I have always attempted to respect the spirit of the artist, including in the choice of using “meager” materials (just as Pardini would have done).
The listels, the Vinavil glue, the canvases, the paperboards and the passe-partouts:
I can personally guarantee that all the mounting is exactly as he himself would have done it.
I was always by his side, as a general helper, as a model for him to study the human form for his huge frescoes, as a carpenter, framer and etcher with a star wheel press.
I learnt never to give up in the face of hardship from Eugenio, and this especially helped me when, after a series of minor, preparatory jobs, I had to tackle the task of restoring his large-scale paperboards.
I found myself having to deal with a composition of colors created solely from his own imagination and blended with his art; I must admit that I was very tempted to throw in the towel. I spent entire days staring at those huge panels, unable to gather the courage to intervene directly on the work itself. I would constantly test the colors, try to find the right materials, but I was never fully satisfied – it wouldn’t have been a successful restoration. The days slid past, but despite my best efforts, I was unable to make any progress… However, one night I dreamt that Eugenio and my mother came into the big shed we used as our workshop, and they began to wander between the various works, looking back and forth. Without expressing the slightest opinion; his silence worried me, but I didn’t dare ask him anything. My mother had also stopped to observe a block of drawings, the ones made using white Indian ink on black sheets – the sheets which were once used to protect x-rays and which her cousin, who worked in a hospital, would smuggle out for her. My mother had an affectionate look on her face, she was smiling at me as usual, but I didn’t really take this into consideration because, in her eyes, I could do no wrong. At a certain point, Pardini turned to me, and I could perceive satisfaction in his expression.
I awoke suddenly and couldn’t get back to sleep.
The following morning, I was on the scaffolding restoring the first paperboard, and the results of my work so astonished me that I called out to my son: “Look, Pietro, what do you think of this?” He was also taken aback. Something in my subconscious had been freed, my spirit was finally liberated of certain obstacles that I often came up against when faced with the challenge of a demanding job; now it was no longer a case of ability and resistance, because a new energy was at work deep inside me: the love for a father that I had never really known enough. Now I was dedicating my life to him.
In all this, I really must give my sincerest thanks to Sean Ferrer who, like a patron of yesteryear, with his support which was not only financial, but also comprised of genuine respect and friendship, made sure that this operation could be carried forth with the help of my son Pietro, thereby insuring, once again, this inevitable passing of knowledge and human values – from father to son – for at least another generation.
Bruno Nencioni Pardini
This post is also available in: Italian