For some years the need for restoration of the internal paintings of the dome of Stella Maris had been seen. The construction project was supposed to start in 2020 but was delayed by 3 years due to the pandemic. Now, finally, the time has come. The restoration was carried out by Stefania who, having come ex-professo from Rome, began the works on 4 October 2022. We took the liberty of asking her a few questions:
Stefania, could you say a word about yourself, about your most significant works done over the years?
My name is Stefania Giovannini, and I was born in Civitavecchia on 12/26/1964. After graduating from high school, between 2002 and 2009 I attended courses at Lignarius, that is an art center, specialized in restoration and ancient decorative techniques, where I learned the various techniques of fresco, graffiti, wall dry paintings, etc.
I began my career as a painter, participating in numerous exhibitions with galleries, for example the Augustinian Biennial, the Seraficum, or even in the Archaeological Museum of History, etc. and I was also in touch with the historic artistic association of the 100 painters of Via Margutta. In 2004 I was awarded the Adrian Ludwig Richter Art Prize.
At the same time, I collaborated with restorers and set designers thus refining the knowledge of the painting and of the conservative restoration. During my artistic-working career I can count over the years countless restoration and decoration works including the Pontifical Spanish College in Rome, the arches and the chapel of the Tabernacle of the Basilica of Saint Eugene (Rome), interventions of decorations and restoration of the Presidency of the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, the BSR British Academy (Rome), the reception rooms of the Presidency of the Republic (Sala dei Busti and Sala Ricci). From 2016 to today I have been involved in the restoration works of the Basilica of Saint Teresa of Avila (Rome).
What interventions were necessary to intervene on the paintings of the dome of our Basilica Stella Maris?
The interventions that immediately became urgent concerned the restoration of the safety of the paintings together with the recovery of legibility. The cleaning operations were aimed in particular at removing the heavy retouches made in the last restoration and at removing the widespread layer of dirt present. At the same time, it was necessary to reassert the large pieces of detached and often flung pictorial film, to then proceed with the chromatic retouches performed in mimesis.
What difficulty do you find in this work done in Israel?
The difficulties that have arisen have mainly concerned the availability of materials, brought in from Italy due to their unavailability, and the difficulty in communicating in a country whose culture of restoration comes mainly from abroad and does not boast a strong local tradition.
What weather forecast at the present time to finish?
Timescales in such a sensitive job can never be taken for granted, however, it is hoped to be able to deliver the work in early 2023.
Could you say a few words to the pilgrims and visitors to the basilica about the beauty and splendor of the dome after the works?
Certainly, the paintings of Stella Maris are now a point of reference for visiting pilgrims and for the people who take care of this place. The colors that are being brought to light, and in particular the golden mirrors, with their plays of light during the hours of the day, make these stories of Saint Elijah a precious testimony of the art of the early 1900s. In particular the technique used, with the paint used on a deliberately rough plaster, gives a better idea of the fire and the daring vicissitudes of the saint.
With the restoration it is hoped to finally allow visitors to be dazzled by the bright and vivid tones of the dome of Stella Maris, dispelling the blanket of dust that reduced its legibility.
Thank you, Stefania, for your time, your work, your testimony, your generosity. We sincerely thank you on behalf of the entire community.