Happy Easter from the Vatican Museums

Dear Patrons and Friends,

First of all, I would like to address all of you to witness my closeness to you in this moment of family, general, national, and world difficulties. What we are all experiencing is an unusual time which, fortunately, the Vatican Museums have had to face only in a few moments of their centuries-old history.

I invite all of us to pray for this difficult situation and to entrust ourselves to our beloved Virgin, Salus Populi Romani, whose devotion to Pope Francis is known and witnessed recently in that intense moment of prayer last March 27 in St. Peter’s Square.

Below I want to leave you with an article about the Via Crucis which is an inspiring read about its restoration and future exhibition.

Lastly, I would like to send you my dearest wishes for the coming Easter with the hope of seeing you all again, as soon as possible, in our beloved Museums.

Barbara Jatta, Director of the Vatican Museums

By Barbara Jatta

The Via Crucis of the Vatican Museums, painted between 1901-1902 and released by a specific client, was conceived after the dramatic but still “traditional” Via Crucis for the cemetery of the Lombard municipality of Castano Primo. It was frescoed in 1888 together with Francesco Bossi after 6 years of creative gestation. The Vatican series, a gift from the industrialist Fabio Ponti during the formation of the Collection of Modern Religious Art commissioned by Paul VI and inaugurated in 1973, represents one of the most significant results of this journey as it fully reveals itself through the recent implementation of the original setting. It was commissioned by Previati and his gallery owner since the first appearance of the work to the public in 1902 at the first Quadrennial in Turin.

The work was conceived to be seen as a whole, with the 14 stations juxtaposed, without interruptions on a dark red background. The series of great emotional and sensorial impact evokes the compositional modalities of the polyptych or cycles frescoed. It pushes the gaze even further towards the “simultaneity of vision” which affects the avant-garde and cinematography of the art.

The red, the purple-red, and “the deep reds of Gaetano Previati” dominate a Vatican Via Crucis focused on Christ. The fourteen paintings have the same strong and dark color, rough and close drawing, and fire and exaltation of faith. Additionally, they all are without landscape.

“These stations of his martyrdom of Christ demand diligent, long, passionate attention (…) A superficial glance is not enough”, Belfiore described them “They want a recollection of the soul (…) I stared at the pupils for a long time in those pitiful scenes of the pain and faith, I gradually felt myself overcome by an ever greater suggestion and I ended up convincing myself that within this work there was truly a spiritual vitality outside the usual boundaries.”

Already in the beautiful exhibition organized together with the Milanese Diocesan Museum Carlo Maria Martini in 2018, curated by Nadia Righi and Micol Forti, the curators experimented with the power of the original setting. Displayed on three walls, adopted in Tornio in 1902 and again in Milan in 1910, at the great exhibition at Palazzo della Permanente. It was more daring to display on a single wall, the fourteen canvases placed side by side as if they were inside a single frame, designed for the Paris Salon in 1907, which placed the work in contact with the temporal scan and perception of the first cinematography. The same display will be re-proposed to our Vatican audience, as soon as possible, in the suggestive exhibition space of Charlemagne’s Arm.

The results of the research that has enthralled and involved the various Departments of the Vatican Museums are available. First of all, the already praised research of Micol Forti and his collaborators, Lia Pagliarani in particular, includes first-hand archival checks and different insights. Therefore, the many restorations that have seen the Contemporary Art Department of the Vatican Museums work in synergy with the Restoration and Diagnostic Laboratories which have gradually involved all the works of Previati of the Vatican Museums.

The Via Crucis underwent a restoration intervention in the 1980s by Giovanni Propersi and Giovanni Cecchini, and then in 2010, a new restoration was carried out by Tiziana Sorgoni in the Paintings Restoration Laboratory of the Vatican Museums. Today, under the responsibility of Francesca Persegati, the Floreria Vaticana, the Infrastructure and Services Directorate of the SCV Governorate, restored the original, and recently found, frames of the Via Crucis. Special thanks to our Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums, the Minnesota and North Dakota Chapter, who generously supported the work, and allowed us to bring the intense stations back for public use.