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Room 41 – Work to Detach the Plaster on the Vault

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Covering with paraloid – SOPRINTENDENZA archive

After a series of preliminary tests, on 17 and 18 January 2014 we detached the plaster from the north side of the vault. Unfortunately, we were forced to interrupt all the work underway inside the Domus immediately afterwards due to unusually heavy rainfall in Rome. Large amounts of water entered the monument, and especially Rooms 41 and 44b where the sectors detached from the north part of the vault had been stored.

Before this unavoidable interruption, the painted surfaces in the south sector had already been prepared for detachment with the application of gauze impregnated with Paraloid.

Covering with paraloid – SOPRINTENDENZA archive

Covering with paraloid – SOPRINTENDENZA archive

Marking the sections– SOPRINTENDENZA archive

Marking the sections– SOPRINTENDENZA archive

Sections to be cut – SOPRINTENDENZA archive

Sections to be cut – SOPRINTENDENZA archive

Under these circumstances, the resin in the gauze acted as a barrier to the passage of the rainwater that had soaked into the soil above the Domus and penetrated through gaps in the structure, leading to an excess of water in the plaster and the preparatory layers. Luckily, the close-knit system of props ensured overall stability. For many days we were unable to enter the worksite for obvious safety reasons and were only able to carry out an initial inspection on 4 March when the emergency was finally over. When we entered Room 41 we noted that the props had held up perfectly; however, in Room 44b a small portion of the concrete structure of the vault had unfortunately collapsed. Though small, this fragment hit two sections of plaster detached from the north side after a fall of over 10 metres, damaging part of them. On 6 March we therefore moved all the detached sections and counterform structures into the adjacent Room 44a, whose vault does not present static problems. At the same time, the contractor added more props in Room 41 to raise the safety level for workmen and the art works themselves; however, this made it extremely difficult to make the counterform as clearly shown in these images.

Constructing the counterform for vault 1 – SOPRINTENDENZA archive

Constructing the counterform for vault 1 – SOPRINTENDENZA archive

Constructing the counterform for vault 2 – SOPRINTENDENZA archive

Constructing the counterform for vault 2 – SOPRINTENDENZA archive

Counterform reassembled on the ground– SOPRINTENDENZA archive

Counterform reassembled on the ground– SOPRINTENDENZA archive

On 14 and 15 March we were finally able to detach the paintings from the south side and move the sections to the ground; they were much heavier than expected due to the large amount of water they had absorbed.

Erecting props – SOPRINTENDENZA archive

Erecting props – SOPRINTENDENZA archive

Cutting the plaster – SOPRINTENDENZA archive

Cutting the plaster – SOPRINTENDENZA archive

Stratigraphy of the plaster – SOPRINTENDENZA archive

Stratigraphy of the plaster – SOPRINTENDENZA archive

The second phase of work then began. The back of the plaster layer was cleaned and consolidated with water of natural hydraulic lime (Rabot NHL5).

Cleaning the back – SOPRINTENDENZA archive

Cleaning the back – SOPRINTENDENZA archive

Consolidating the back with hydraulic lime– SOPRINTENDENZA archive

Consolidating the back with hydraulic lime– SOPRINTENDENZA archive

Again using the same lime we created a reinforcement layer, about two centimetres thick, reinforced with coated glass fibre netting with a 10 x 10 mm mesh.

Sectors reinforced with mortar and glass fibre netting– SOPRINTENDENZA archive

Sectors reinforced with mortar and glass fibre netting– SOPRINTENDENZA archive

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