Conservation & Restoration of Sculpture

accademia_di belle_arti_di_carrara
Accademia di Belle Arti di Carrara

accademia_di belle_arti_di_carrara
Working on a 2nd century
Roman ara from Carrara quarries,
Accademia workshop

accademia_di belle_arti_di_carrara
Opificio delle Pietre Dure

Eoghan trained in the conservation and restoration of sculpture at the Accademia di Belle Arti di Carrara in Italy, attaining a final grade of 110 ‘e lode’ (with honours – the highest achievable under the Italian university grading system). There, over four years he was taught a variety of subjects related to sculpture conservation, knitting practical know-how together with theory and science.

Only ever one of a handful of students to gain access to the course, he was very fortunate to benefit from the immense experience and often personal tuition of Prof. Augusto Giuffredi, who taught the more hands-on aspects of the subject in the academy workshop. There, students were taught how to approach and solve conservation problems through working in a supervised manner on a wide and ever-changing range of real artworks. These often included pieces dating from the Etruscan, Roman, medieval and Renaissance periods, as well as later works.

Less skill-based but equally important conservation related subjects included Chemistry for Conservation, Petrography, Mould-making, History of Art and Beni Culturali, the latter dealing with the tutelage of artistic heritage.

The course was run in collaboration with the world-renowned Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence, and several of Eoghan's tutors held senior positions at the institute. For example, History and Theory of Conservation was taught by Dr. Annamaria Giusti, in whose lectures the cutting-edge thinking and methodologies applied at the Opificio were described in detail.

Eoghan and fellow students had the opportunity to observe at first hand pieces by Michelangelo, Donatello, Jacopo della Quercia and other masters being conserved/restored during regular visits to the Opificio workshops in Florence. There, the conservators would discuss at length with students the difficulties encountered with particular artworks, the solutions arrived at, and the reasoning behind all courses of action.

The solid base of knowledge that Eoghan garnered in Italy was enormously enriched through working in Ireland as assistant to Jason Ellis, a Dublin-based sculpture conservator with over twenty years of experience in the field. While working together over several years, Jason always proved himself an extremely generous workmate, sharing with Eoghan the many techniques acquired from within a slightly different – English – tradition of sculpture conservation, often more applicable in an Irish context.

Together they worked on several projects of national importance, such as the Romanesque doorways at Clonfert and Freshford, and the large collection of ogham stones at University College Cork. Eoghan now generally works alone, as Jason is concentrating on his own successful stone sculpture practice.

accademia_di belle_arti_di_carrara
Working on the 12th century portal
Clonfert Cathedral
Co. Galway