Bacteria restore medieval Italian fresco

June 30, 2003

Brussels, Jun 2003

An Italian medieval fresco, hidden for around fifty years after an accident with some glue, has been restored following the discovery that bacteria can do the job better than any solvent.

The 'Conversion and Battle of Saint Efisio' by Spinello Aretino decorated the Camposanto cemetery in Pisa until it was bombed during the Second World War. Restoration attempts began immediately afterwards, but a technique involving organic glue and canvas to pull the frescoes from the wall intact resulted in one painting vanishing under a layer of glue. Art restorers have tried in vain to remove the glue over the years, but have made little progress and last year were accused of damaging the painting when they tried using a powerful solvent.

Scientists from Milan University then demonstrated that the bacteria Pseudomonas stutzeri, when applied to the painting with water on cotton wool, could eat through 80 per cent of the glue in around ten hours. 26 square metres of the fresco have now been uncovered, and the complete work is expected to be returned to the cemetery next year.

Claudia Sorlini, a professor at the University of Milan, along with colleagues from around Europe, will now use the bacteria to restore other works of art, starting with the ancient Greek monuments at the Epidaurus archaeological site.

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments

Most Commented

James Fryer illustration (27 July 2017)

It is not Luddism to be cautious about destroying an academic publishing industry that has served us well, says Marilyn Deegan

Jeffrey Beall, associate professor and librarian at the University of Colorado Denver

Creator of controversial predatory journals blacklist says some peers are failing to warn of dangers of disreputable publishers

Hand squeezing stress ball
Working 55 hours per week, the loss of research periods, slashed pensions, increased bureaucracy, tiny budgets and declining standards have finally forced Michael Edwards out
Kayaker and jet skiiers

Nazima Kadir’s social circle reveals a range of alternative careers for would-be scholars, and often with better rewards than academia

hole in ground

‘Drastic action’ required to fix multibillion-pound shortfall in Universities Superannuation Scheme, expert warns