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by Archaeology Newsroom

From Francesco Novo to specialized restorers of antiquities and works of art

The restoration of the mosaics of Daphni monastery in 1892-1894 represents the first systematic restoration of a work of art with historic significance. The restoration work was undertaken by the Italian Francesco Novo, who was especially invited for this assignment by the Greek state. Novo was succeeded by a number of Greek painters, all empirical in the art of restoration, who continued a long established trandition. Creators of utilitarian or artistic objects have always been considered as their natural restorers, therefore, painters were the most suitable people to restore any damaged work of painting. This attitude and mentality did not change even in the nineteenth century, when the systematic protection and preservation of monuments began. Scientific restoration started after the War and it was only around 1960 that it managed to gain an international reputation. It is then that Greek restorers, educated abroad, appear. At the same time the Greek Archaeological Service considerably expanded its activities, undertook the systematic restoration of many monuments and employed many empirical restorers. Between 1967 and 1977, a few attempts in the private sector were made for the creation of restoration schools of collegiate level, but they were shortlived. When these attempts failed all possibility of studying restoration in Greece disappeared. Today the Archaeological Service employs 343 restorers; 181 with an elementary education, 135 are high school graduates and only 27 have a university degree. Therefore, the institution in 1985 of a Restoration School of university level in the Technologic Educational Institute of Athens, is an important stage in the history of the protection and preservation of monuments in Greece. In spite of the serious shortcomings of the school today, and the hard criticism it has faced, the institution of this school undoubtedly paves the way for the recognition of the restorer’s profession, the scientific education of the new restorers and consequently for the modernized, scientific and professional restoration of monuments.