Among the main factors that endanger the conservation of Nero’s palace, now underground after Trajan’s works, a crucial role for the frescoed surfaces is played by light.

Unfortunately, light may encourage the growth of microorganisms harmful to the paint layer if precise limits are not respected (emissions must be under 150 lux per room).

On the other hand, the need to constantly monitor the stability of the vaults and walls to ensure the safety of workers entailed a need to devise a lighting system suitable for the conservation of the monument’s decorative heritage but that also allowed for frequent and regular checks.

The project was managed by Prof. Fabio Aramini, director of the Photometry and Lighting Design Section of the Istituto Superiore per la Conservazione e il Restauro (ISCR). The Soprintendenza already implemented a first part in 2010; a second part is currently being defined and will be completed by October 2012.

We first set up a lighting system in rooms that had previously been dark and that for this reason had never been studied, some of which belong to the East Wing: rooms from no. 56 to no. 64, also including Cryptoporticus 19 on the north edge of the West Wing.

Subsequently, we adopted the type of lighting already successfully tested in all our open worksites.

Overall plan of the Domus Aurea showing the rooms lit with led lights in yellow – SSBAR recording

Overall plan of the Domus Aurea showing the rooms lit with led lights in yellow – SSBAR recording

We chose to use recent generation high efficiency white LED lights equipped with electronic components specially chosen for the rooms of the Domus Aurea, under conditions of extremely high humidity.

Cryptoporticus 19 without lights – SSBAR Archive

Cryptoporticus 19 without lights – SSBAR Archive

Cryptoporticus 19 with the LED lighting system - SSBAR Archive

Cryptoporticus 19 with the LED lighting system – SSBAR Archive

These LED lights offer greater guarantees for the conservation of plasterwork, frescoes and stucco work, since they emit a light equivalent to only 35 lux per room, thus lowering the potential for the development of algae, fungi and lichens (agents of bio-deterioration) by 80%; however, over time other advantages have also emerged:

  • the high chromatic quality of the light,
  • the absence of ultraviolet and infrared emissions
  • the potential for a very low voltage electricity supply.

Low electricity consumption is also significant: when implementing the first intervention we estimated an energy saving of 60% and a very long lifetime of the light sources, between fifty and a hundred thousand hours.

Finally, additional optical devices able to further improve the uniformity of emissions were used on the lights in some of the rooms served by the new system and all the appliances in Cryptoporticus 19.

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Gli autori

Ida Sciortino

Ida Sciortino

Archaeologist at MiBAC (the Italian Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities) since 1980, she has been a member of the Domus Aurea staff since 1992 and is the blog coordinator. The scientific director of the Underground Basilica at Porta Maggiore, she is also responsible for safeguard in part of the territory of Rome’s 1st District (I Municipio), adjacent to the north-western area of the Roman Forum where since 1982 she has been responsible for all archaeological research and for completing the conservation of the structures in the area behind the Temple of Saturn. On 30 September 2014, as part of the initiatives for the Bimillennium of Augustus, the ancient route of the Vicus Iugarius and the Basilica Julia were reopened to the public.
Maurizio Pesce

Maurizio Pesce

A member of the technical staff of MiBAC (the Italian Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities) from 1978. Since 1989, he has been a member of the Domus Aurea staff, holding management support posts and managing facilities and maintenance work. He worked with special commitment on reopening the monument in 1999. Since 2010, he has been technical director, coordinating the companies working in the monument, workers and staff in collaboration with the director of the Domus Aurea. He is also works manager in several of the worksites to secure the monument.
Fabio Aramini

Fabio Aramini

Works at MiBAC (the Italian Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities), where he runs the ISCR (formerly the Istituto Centrale del Restauro) “Photometry and Spectrocolorimetry” Section. Since 1986 he has taught “Photometry and Spectrocolorimetry” at the Institute’s school. He has taught courses at the Universities of Granada and Baeza, at the CIK in Belgrade and for the Master in Lighting Design at Rome’s La Sapienza University. His research concerns the prevention of damage caused by natural and artificial light and the dynamics of the photoevanescence of paint materials. He has designed and developed optical conduction systems and lighting systems of high chromatic quality and low micro-environmental impact. He was a member of the committee that drew up the Guidelines for Museum Standards. He has worked as a consultant or designer for numerous institutions, including: the Museo de la Capilla Real in Granada, the lighting guide system for Leonardo’s Last Supper, the Riace bronzes (1993). He has also coordinated the lighting design project for the Borghese Gallery. In recent years he has developed projects based on the use of solid state lighting for the Domus Aurea, the Underground Basilica at Porta Maggiore, the Lancisiana Library and the fresco cycle in the Oratorio dei Pellegrini at Bominaco (AQ).

3 thoughts on “Lighting

  1. non sapevo che i led avessero anche questi vantaggi oltre alla durata e al risparmio energetico

  2. Appassionato di storia dell’antica Roma ho letto con molto interesse lo svolgere del restauro della Domus Aurea e la mia domanda è questa :
    Perchè non sterrare completamente come è stato fatto con Pompei risolvendo molti problemi di infiltrazioni e dotando un copertura riparatrice e conservatrice del monumento rifacendo dopo sopra i giardini progettati .
    sarei interessato a un contributo, una piccola goccia che farà risorgere e risplendere la domus, chi bisogna contattare ?
    Cordiali saluti a tutto lo staff del restauro Giuliano Giulitti

  3. Gentile Signor Giulitti,
    quasi tutte le case di Pompei non avevano più i tetti, per questo sono state sterrate e riportate in luce, invece la Domus Aurea ha ancora quasi tutte le volte conservate e molto spesso dipinte. Per questo il progetto che stiamo realizzando è molto complesso, dobbiamo risanare le coperture antiche mantenendo costante l’umidità all’interno e dopo faremo il nuovo giardino.
    Molti ci scrivono di voler dare un piccolo contributo e questa cosa è molto bella perché significa che si sta stabilendo un legame di appartenenza tra la Domus Aurea e i cittadini. Speriamo che possa realizzarsi presto questa possibilità, alla quale stiamo lavorando.
    Continui dunque a seguirci

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