Parnassus fresco ©FondazioneTorlonia
Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

restauro dell’affresco del Parnaso

The holy mountain in the presentation of a hill. As a central figure, Mengs places the god Apollo surrounded by the nine muses, and to his right, enthroned, their goddess mother, Mnemosyne. In the shaded background, a gushing amphora on its side personifies a lying figure: a symbol of the fountain-nymph Castalia. In his theoretical reflections, Mengs highlights the beauty that exists in nature, linked to its practical interpretation and translation into art. He writes on the delicacy of the shadows, the lighting and shading exploited by Correggio, the expressive movement of Raphael’s figures, Titian’s chromatic mastery, and, on the basis of these fundamental principles and others, he undertakes this epochal change.

restauro dell’affresco del Parnaso

The holy mountain in the presentation of a hill. As a central figure, Mengs places the god Apollo surrounded by the nine muses, and to his right, enthroned, their goddess mother, Mnemosyne. In the shaded background, a gushing amphora on its side personifies a lying figure: a symbol of the fountain-nymph Castalia. In his theoretical reflections, Mengs highlights the beauty that exists in nature, linked to its practical interpretation and translation into art. He writes on the delicacy of the shadows, the lighting and shading exploited by Correggio, the expressive movement of Raphael’s figures, Titian’s chromatic mastery, and, on the basis of these fundamental principles and others, he undertakes this epochal change.

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco , detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco , detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco , detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco , detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco , detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco , detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco , detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco , detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Parnassus fresco, detail ©FondazioneTorlonia

Mengs was commissioned with the work in Rome in 1760 and completed it the following year while Villa Albani was taking shape and becoming one of the greatest art collections in Europe: a model, a museum and the driving force behind cultural renewal across the continent, meritworthy of having captured the essence of a vast amount of research and studies in a visible and practical manner.

Neoclassicism cannot be fully understood without making reference to the figure of Winckelmann, the thinker and theorist of this movement which developed in the second half of the 18th century. The role of the cultural environments and artistic circles of the day in Rome was decisive for the formulation of new ideas to contrast the Baroque art. Wincklemann’s essay, published in 1755 – ‘Thoughts on the Imitation of Greek Works in Painting and Sculpture’ – and an awareness of these theories influenced and indeed became the manifesto of a form of artistic expression linked to the reappraisal of Greek artists. Studies on the ancient era concerning the nature of art, the new way of expressing judgements and prescribing subjects, models and more beautiful shapes to paint or sculpt become predominant in the work of scholars and of those artists who start to execute their works guided by these new models and forms of thought.

The restoration process does not only constitute an act linked to the conservation of the artwork, but also the chance to see and analyse the fresco close up in order to examine and gain awareness of the techniques and the methods used during the production of such an important painting project. None of the preparatory sheets used by Mengs to trace the drawings onto the fresh plaster have survived, except two sketches of the ovals on the ceiling and a portrait of the face, where we may also note the squared divisions used for the Gloria et Premium. Significant is the peculiarity of the technique of applying the stucco to the surfaces where that Mengs was to paint the Parnassus with marble powder and lime, while the two ovals and all the monochromatic decorations are applied with pozzolanic ash and plaster, following in the finest tradition to be found in Rome for centuries.