Dictionary Review


Glossario delle Tecniche Artistiche e del Restauro
(Italian, French, English, German, Spanish)

Author: Paolini, Claudio; Faldi, Manfredi
ISBN: 88-87411-04-2
Publisher: Edizioni Palazzo Spinelli
Publication date: 2000
Price: €29.00
Available from: Istituto per l'Arte ed il Restauro "Palazzo Spinelli" - Borgo S. Croce 10, I-50122 Firenze, Italy - www.spinelli.it.
The glossary on line:
Number of pages: 351
Number of entries: 1200+


Lessico del Restauro · Storia Tecniche Strumenti

Author: Giannini, Cristina
Publisher: Nardini Editore
Publication date: 1998/I
Price: €22.00
Available from: Nardini Editore - via del Salviatino 1, I-50014 Fiesole (FI), Italy
Number of pages: 351


In the early eighties, I heard of a glossary of painting restoration, which was described to me as superb*. Useless to say, I never got it, but while looking for it I found its modern incarnation and its historic and technical backdrop. Luck and hard work done by Libreria Goldoni, Venice have produced two volumes of great interest for those who translate in the field of fine arts.

Paolini & Faldi's work fills an egregious gap. Some related material was available all along: For ceramic descriptions, the slim but unsurpassed Lexique Plurilingue pour la Description des Poteries by Balfet, Hélène et al. Paris: Editions du Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, 1988; for enamels, Bayer's ancient Emails, Enamels, Emaux, Smalti. E-F-D-I. Leverkuse, W.G. Farbenfabriken Bayer Aktiengesellschaft, 1960; for books and paper, the Wörterbüch der Handbuchbinderei und Einbandreastaurierung by Kuhn, Hilde. D-E-F-I. Hannover: Schlütersche Verlagsanstalt und Druckerei GmbH & Co. 1985; and for glass the excellent ICG Dictionary of Glass-Making. E-F-D. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 1983/ii and its Italian section, the Dizionario di Tecnologia Vetraria. I. Venice: Stazione Sperimentale del Vetro, 1987. Nevertheless, paintings, frescos and their techniques were left to the cognoscenti. The relevance of Glossario delle Tecniche Artistiche e del Restauro is supported by a prestigious European sponsorship, the program INFO 2000 of the European Commission, Directorate General XIII/E, Luxembourg, which has also produced an online glossary based upon Paolini and Faldi's [P&F] recueil with about 1200 lemmata again in four languages (I-E-S-D), available at www.argosproject.org.

The hardcopy has the advantage of offering expert Italian definitions of the terms, absent from the database on line, and the disadvantage of lacking cross-indexes, thus limiting the direction of translation from Italian into the other three languages. This diversified approach is quite useful, as shown, for instance, by the small treatise on colors and pigments with emerges from P&F definitions. Although the individual variations are all included in the online database, without the hardcopy or specific competence, it would be almost impossible to tell that corpum mortum, caput mortum, colcothar, morello, morel di sale, vetriolo cotto and vetriolo romano bruciato are just synonyms of English brown, or that Baltimore, chrome, Hansa and brilliant yellows are one and the same pigment (although we are told that the latter is often a cadmium yellow instead). Also, one must know in advance that isotropia or isotropy or having the same properties, i.e. hardness, strength, etc. in every direction (strangely translated by P&F with the adjective isotropic), is the opposite of anisotropia or anisotropy, or read the book, because the database does not volunteer such information.

While Pollini has coordinated the project and defined the terms pertaining to art history and critique, painting techniques and related materials, Faldi has provided the lemmata specific to degradation, scientific assay, restoration techniques and related materials and tools. I benchmarked their effort using a solid all- English reference, continuously in print since it was first published in 1883: J.W Mollett's Illustrated Dictionary of Words used in Art and Archeology, reprinted in 1987 by Omega Books, Ltd., London, UK under the new title An Illustrated Dictionary of Antique Art and Archeology.

E I Mollett P&F
Arzica [an antique yellow pigment] Arzica  Also, lacca di gualda, erba lucia, guada, gualda, lacca gialla lutea, luza.
Cochineal Lacca di cocciniglia R Also carmine, red lake.  Also carminio, rosso di carminio, lacca di Firenze, lacca di Monaco.
Copal Coppale o copale Also South African Copal. Also, Copal of Zanzibar o copale di Zanzibar.
Encaustic Encausto  Also the distinct encausticatura, causticazione, encaustizzazione or encaustic finish.
Fish glue Colla di pesce  Also ittiocolla.
Garanza lake Lacca di garanza Under madder only. Also garance. Also barantia, garancia, lacca di alzarina, lacca madder, lacca di robia, lacca di Rubens, retzel, rezza, rubea.
Indigo Indaco Also indigo brown, indigo red and the Sanscrit chandaras. Also lulacin, indaco baccadeo, del Bengala, della Carolina, color rame, fiore, maccabeo, di Giava, and del Messico.
Malachite green Verde malachite Only malachite Also verde azzurro di Spagna, verde azzurro, verde tedesco, verde di montagna, lapis armenis
Purple Porpora Also its pigments: madder purple, violet mars and burnt carmine Also its ancient synonym pelagia.
Realgar[an antique red pigment] Realgal or risalgallo  Also risigale, realgar d'orpimento, rubino d'arsenico, sandaracha, sandaraca.
Ultramarine green Verde oltremare Also lapis lazuli, azzurrum transmarinum  
Venetian red or Venice lake Lacca di Venezia Only Venetian red Only Venice lake, another variety of cochineal.
Yellow lake Lacca gialla  Also lacca di Philadelphia, di quecitrone

This comparison is already telling, but does not express P&F's incredible richness. The proof is within. For instance, there are 24 headwords and 42 synonyms of lake or lacca; 72 greens; 26 reds ; 72 yellows; and over 75 whites.

To fully appreciate the difficulties so brilliantly overcome by P&F, I believe it quite useful to read Cristina Giannini's seminal work. Her Lessico del restauro is a sound example of solid historiography, combining linguistic research, history of art and history of technology. Giannini follows the restoration field in France and (mostly) Italy, presenting all the major figures of four centuries of developments and their techniques. In so doing she unearths a trove of new information, defining the elements of what we know as the "cleaning controversy", which recently reached the American public at the time of the Sistine Chapel restoration, thanks to Polaroid's superior visual documentation. In so doing she redefines the often obscure figure of the peintre-restaurateur on the basis of his evolving restoring methodology. Particular attention is dedicated to two father founders of the Italian restoration school, Ulisse Forni and Giovanni Secco Suardo, whose work and writings are analyzed in detail in view of the technical innovations they introduced. Giannini's research is important for the translator as well, in terms of both linguistic development (showing the parallels between French and Italian) and lexicon pure and simple.

In particular, an appendix titled Il lessico degli strumenti or Tool Lexicon, packs in only six pages a complete list of every painter and restorer's tool ever used, from pennelli or paint brushes (P&F dedicate half a page to the definition alone) to the feared raschini or scrapers (all their variants: raschiatoio, raspino, bisturi, lancetta, mestichino, coltello da pittore, coltello adunco, etc. are mentioned by both Giannini and P&F).

This is probably the ultimate testimonial of the relevance of both works. The first cogent historical analysis of restoration and the first multilingual glossary in that same field are so perfectly and independently matched that among the hundreds of tools listed by Giannini only one is not mentioned by P&F: piumaccioli di cotone (big Q-tips ante literam, used during froissement or sfregagione, another of the few terms which P&F did not include).

One final note on the Web site. It exists, it is user friendly and its database works well. What a pleasant surprise!


* I still do not have it, but at least now I know that it was titled Glossario tecnico-artistico per il restauratore dei dipinti by its author Jacqueline Ascoli, and that it was an internal document of the Istituto "Palazzo Spinelli".