After several months of work by a group of conservators, we are about to complete the intervention to secure the decorations of the Great Cryptoporticus which delimits the East Wing of the Domus to the north.
The other day I went up onto the scaffolding to check how work was progressing and verify some conservation problems on the vault.
As I ascended (the vault is up to 12 metres above floor level), I found myself face to face with details of the paintings and took some photographs. They are not of particularly high quality, but they should be seen as a reflection of what my eyes took in. At that moment, I thought how privileged I was to find myself in the same situation as the 16th-century artists who discovered the paintings of the Domus Aurea by lowering themselves down from above. I paused to examine the details and the beautiful colours, distracted for a moment from my inspection.
Below, I report what Giorgio Vasari wrote in the mid-16th century in his famous work, the Lives of the Artists, describing the visit made by Giovanni da Udine and Raphael to the Domus Aurea in around 1509: “certain rooms were discovered, completely buried under the ground, full of little grotesques, little figures and scenes, with other stucco ornaments in low relief. For when Giovanni went with Raphael, who was taken to see them, they were both struck dumb at the freshness, beauty and refinement of those works, and it seemed amazing to them that they had been preserved for such a long time; but it was no great wonder, for they had not been open or exposed to the air, which over time, with the changes of the seasons, consumes all things”.
Almost five centuries have passed since their visit and despite its many problems the Domus is still there, with all its historical and cultural fascination. In a few words, Vasari sums up what remains the principal conservation problem of this monument: the need to stabilize temperature and humidity levels, isolating it as far as possible from changes in the external climate. This is what we are working so hard to achieve.