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In 2016, Friends of Florence and Save Venice Inc. sponsored the conservation treatment of a group of 48 drawings by the Venetian artist Giovanni Battista Tiepolo (1692–1770), held in the Horne Museum of Florence. Forty-four of the drawings are bound in an album and an additional four from the same album are mounted separately. The drawings vary in size and subject, most being studies of visual motifs datable on stylistic grounds to about 1740. They are executed in black smoke ink and brown iron gallic ink on various types of paper.
The English architect, art historian, and collector Herbert P. Horne (1864–1916) bought these works by the famed Venetian artist in London in 1903, and brought them to Florence in 1911 when he acquired Palazzo Corsi in Via Benci in Florence. The Palazzo became the Horne Museum in 1916, after Horne’s death and the bequest of his home and art collection to the Italian state.
The Horne album was part of a series of nine volumes gathered by English collector Edward Cheney in the mid-19th century, probably sold at Sotheby’s in 1885. Two of the nine albums are conserved in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and one is in the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York. Together with the Horne album, they form one of the most important graphic testimonies of Tiepolo’s art.
Giovanni Battista (Giambattista) Tiepolo was Venice’s most important painter in the 18th century. During his illustrious career, Tiepolo created nearly 800 paintings and a vast amount of fresco painting on the walls of palaces, churches, and villas throughout Europe, with commissions extending well beyond Venice due to his popularity with the royal houses of Spain, Germany, Sweden, and Russia. In addition, Tiepolo was a prolific and prized draftsman. His sketches and drawings comprise an important legacy providing insight on his artistic practices.
Conservation treatment of the drawings in the Horne Museum funded by Friends of Florence and Save Venice was preceded by non-invasive photographic studies in raking, ultraviolet, and infrared light to further understand the drawings’ state of conservation and the materials used to create them. To begin conservation treatment, restorers removed the pages from the album and cleaned the drawings with brushes, microvacuums, and conservation erasers to remove dirt and deposits. Glue stains were removed and tears repaired. As the drawings were long ago glued onto the pages of the album, they suffer from deformation of the supporting paper and from folds. They were gradually flattened back in shape through the application of Gortex or by using a humidity chamber. The four drawings that had been removed from the album were reinserted in the volume on new paper supports. The binding of the album, so tight that the album cannot be fully opened, was restored to ease the movement of the pages. The original box housing the volume was repaired and amplified to fit the album, which will be slightly larger after conservation treatment due to the insertion of Japanese paper veiling between each page for protective measure.