Cesare Brandi (1906-1988). His thought and the European debate in the 20th century.

Cesare Brandi, founder of the Central Institute for Restoration in 1939, represents the main figure of reference, at an international level, as regards the theorization and dissemination of a modern culture of restoration, restoration not only at a national level but also in a wider international context. Cesare Brandi stands out as the most important figure for the theorization and diffusion, in Italy and also within the wider international context, of a modern restoration culture.

It was he who founded the Central Institute of Restoration in Rome in 1939, directing it for over 20 years and, later, continuing his teaching activity at the University of Palermo and then at the University of Rome “La Sapienza”.

The vastness and complexity of his learning ranged from the figurative arts to poetry, music, dance, theatre and cinema and expanded over the Italian boundaries: his learning formed in the wake of the most distinguished tradition of the European culture which, from the philosophy of the ancient Greeks, had developed through the Kantian revolution up to the most innovative expressions of the thought of his time in the fields of aesthetic, hermeneutic, linguistic, structuralism, psychology of art perception.

Developed on the occasion of the first centenary of his birth, the project aimed to highlight the European dimension of Cesare Brandi’s thought, expanding his knowledge even outside Italy; facilitate the comparison between the different interpretations of Brand’s thought and continue to monitor its relevance in different countries and cultures.

Six national Conference held in Belgium, France, Germany, Poland, Spain, Portugal. These seminaries, dealing with how Brandi’s restoration theory and practice could contribute to solve the specific problems pointed out by each country.

The most precious and mature result of his sensibility and education was his theory of conservation-restoration which, when it come to the safeguard of our past, reasserts the common roots of the various European identities.

The Project activities were formulated so as to meet the requirements of different targets of people, therefore they unfolded on three different levels:

  • National research groups and national seminars held in Belgium, France, Germany, Poland, Spain, Portugal on the ways in which the theory and practice of restoration developed by Brandi can address the solution of the most specific problems encountered in each of the partner countries, according to a scientific and organizational structure that has been discussed and decided by the Scientific Committee of the project; These seminaries, dealing with how Brandi’s restoration theory and practice could contribute to solve the specific problems pointed out by each country.
  • An itinerant Exhibition held in the different countries illustrated Brandi’s life, his lesson as well as his theory and publications. Besides this the Exhibition dealt with some of the most important interventions performed when Brandi was managing the Istituto Centrale del Restauro (1939 – 1960): in that lapse of time his restoration theory was practised almost every day, and therefore consequently improved. This resulted in some outstanding restoration interventions such as those performed on the frescos of the Paduan Cappella Ovetari by Andrea Mantegna, on Duccio da Buoninsegna Maestà in the Museum of the Siena Dome, on Giotto’s frescos in the Basilica di San Francesco in Assisi.
  • The publication of a “Brandi’s Glossary” Theory and practice of conservatio-restoration according to Cesare Brandi in the different languages containing some of the most complex concepts and terms of his thought.

Ministero per i Beni e le Attività Culturali – Dipartimento per i Beni Culturali e Paesaggistici (Roma)

Participant Institutions
Associazione Giovanni Secco Suardo
Associazione Amici di Cesare Brandi
Academy of Fine Arts Warsaw, Faculty of Conservation and Restoration of Works of Art (Warsaw) Universität von Hildesheim, Hochschule für angewandte Wissenschaft und Kunst, HAWK Hildesheim / Holzminden / Göttingen (Hildesheim)
Institut Nationale du Patrimoine (Paris)
Universidad Politecnica de Valencia, Departamento de Conservaciòn y Restauraciòn de Bienes Culturales (Valencia)
Universidade Tecnica de Lisboa, Faculdade de Arquitectura (Lisboa)
Universitè Libre de Bruxelles, Facultè de Philosophie et Lettres, Section d’Histoire de l’Art (Bruxelles)