The wallcoverings in the Grand Salon are of sculpted velvet worked in red and gold silk with gilded silk thread. It was made in 1884 by the Fabrica Nazionale di Stoffe di Seta of Ambrogio Osnago of Milan. The restoration of the wallcovering was done between april 1997 and March 1998 by the firm of Renzo Ruggeri of Florence, with the collaboration of the restorer Mary Westerman Bulgarella. Various reasons had caused the grave degradation of the wallcovering. Dust, light and the harmful effects of the heating elements, as well as the state of tension of the fabric itself, all have compromised the wallcoverings seriously. They presented lacerations, detached pieces and deformations. Other damage had been caused by the removal of the wallcoverings during WWII, and their reinstallation in 1950. After the very delicate work of removing the wallcoverings from the walls, the various pieces of velvet were disassembled, dusted, separated from the wallpaper to which they had been applied, and then cleaned with a neutral solution of detergent. To consolidate the wallcoverings, they were backed with polyester net, while the front of each piece was covered with nylon tulle destined to act as a dust filter. Once the pieces were reassembled, they were replaced on the walls with bronze staples or small flat headed nails.
Technical Report of the Restoration
The detachment of the wallcoverings from the walls and the successive restoration of the velvet represent the two phases of the intervention.
1) Detachment of the Wallcoverings from the Walls
The removal of the wallcoverings from the walls necessitated the detachment of the velvet from the wallpaper to which it had been applied. For this delicate operation, it was decided first, aided by hot vapor to expand the glue and by flat utensils, to detach the wallcoverings and wallpaper together. Once the wallcoverings were removed, the walls were carefully dusted and covered with a layer of cotton padding and of monochromatic fabric in the same basic tint as the background of the velvet.
During the intervention, it was decided not to remove some of the wallcoverings, which were dusted in situ with a light brushing and a low strength vacuum, while the detached pieces were glued to the walls.
2) Restoration of the velvet . detachment of the fabric pieces; . careful dusting with a micro-vacuum on both sides; . relaxation and extention of the velvet (with vapor and little weights), opening of the folds, recomposition of the disconnected parts; . through the use of vapor, water, and/or scalpels, removal of the paper and the patches of various kinds of fabric that had been glued to the back of the velvet wallcoverings; . local cleaning with brushing on a solution of neutal detergent (Saponina RE of Carlo Erba of 0,05% in distilled water) and aspiration on the vacuum table under the conditions of a vacuum; . consolidation of the velvet on a support of a polyester veil (Stabiltex, tinted brown), stretched on a frame with three thermoplastic resinous sponges (acetate, polyvinyl DMC5 at 40%) using the heat of a hot spatula passed over the background of the velvet from the front and a little iron passed over the back of the supporting fabric in tension; . application of nylon tulle tinted brown on the front (not in tension) using radiating stitches of silk thread (Faro n° 100, color 333) every 3-5 centimeters for the entire length of the pieces, according to the state of the velvet. The lacunae, large rips, and raised metal threads were sewn with a “posed” stitch, either directly onto the support, or through the tulle; . the borders of the textiles were reinforced with strips of cotton sewn with the same thread along the borders; . the textiles were reunited on the walls, having first been sewn together from the front using the “mattress” stitch to fix the design, then on the back with a “backwards” stitch to reinforce the seams; . to the textiles on the walls with windows and doors were added pieces of light cotton in order to keep the little bits together during rolling and remounting. The reassembled textiles were dusted and rolled the long way with the plush towards the inside; . the textiles were applied to the walls first from the top with browned copper staples applied with a staple gun, then along the sides of the windows and doors with flat headed nails. The textiles from one wall to the other were resewn together with a curved needle and the “mattress” stitch. The lacunae were integrated with little pieces of like-colored cotton placed on the wall. In the case of open seams, or openings or tears in other areas, particularly around the windows and the wall sconces, the integration was realized by painting the wall with watercolors. Even the exposed yellow threads of the velvet’s background were darkened with watercolor.