Digital Restoration of the Map of Bologna


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The project to restore the vast bird's eye view map of Bologna's surrounding countryside began in April 2011 when a Factum Arte team entered the private quarters within Vatican 's Apostolic Palace to record high definition images of the wonderful frescoes in the Sala Bologna- works originally executed under Lorenzo Sabatini's direction for Gregory XIII's Jubilee in 1575.

The first of the rescores was digitally imaged and reproduced in 1:1 definition and work was also started on the virtual restoration of another frescoed section, the west wall. This digital restoration aims to recreate the original appearance of the wall painting using an entirely non-invasive, virtual technique by post-processing the digital data collected in the initial imaging work using photo-editing software. The high definition (HD) images taken in 2011 used to plan the digital mediation and to carry out a close examination of the state of the wall were captured using a Dr. Clauss Panoramic System.

Digital restoration of the frescoed map from the C16th Sala Bologna.

The collaboration of the University of Bologna has been essential in many ways and especially in the toponymic research (defining the places and names). Francesco Ceccarelli , lecturer at the Alma Mater Studiorum (University of Bologna), provided significant support in the retrieval of support documents - as well as drawings and maps from the same period - which has been very important in the virtual reconstruction of some damaged area of the fresco. The most important missing section ( lacuna) constituted a very large area (34x38 cm) which, together with the numerous, smaller areas of tempera loss required a complex process of deduction.

The digital restoration has been implemented in several steps. Initially the 'removal' of the cracks that appear across the entire surface of the map was carried out. As a second step a careful and painstaking reconstruction of the townscapes and buildings that represent cities and villages was necessary where some exciting images were uncovered and restored. In this second phase accurate attention has been paid to colour and form. The restorer investigated old and current maps to find and demonstrate the right location for several areas and centres of interest that have now disappeared. Within the area of the city of Bologna itself the restorer noticed an interesting piece missing and after an careful checking was able to show clearly that the area coincided exactly with the location of the Basilica of San Petronio and she therefore re-introduced the church. In this and several cases the restorer highlighted the additional material using a different chromatic code which is the standard protocol in restoration.

In many cases the overlap of preparatory engraving and subsequent physical restorations made the selection of which elements to preserve much more complicated but in general the guideline has been the preservation of as much information as possible. A very fine example of this is the intriguing castle San Martino Manzuoli where the original image has been restored based on the drawing by Egnazio Danti.
The final stage - the careful and difficult restoration of the countryside including details of fields, streams, rivers, water works, hills and contours - completed the work.

The wall's condition still leaves room for interpretation but in general the work is exact and congruent with the original. From this virtual restoration it is now possible to appreciate the beauty of the original wall painting and to analyse it in some depth where it is now possible to have a clear and vivid idea of the appearance of the fresco at the time of its painting.

This animation shows a preview of the digital restoration on a damaged area of the map that shows the surroundings of the city of Bologna.

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