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Conserve or restore? Camillo Boito’s texts on the protection of cultural heritage, 1884 to 1886

Marko Špikić   ORCID icon ; Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Department of history of art, Zagreb, Croatia

Puni tekst: hrvatski, pdf (3 MB) str. 121-132 preuzimanja: 843* citiraj
APA 6th Edition
Špikić, M. (2011). Konzervirati ili restaurirati? Tekstovi Camilla Boita o zaštiti kulturne baštine, 1884.-1886.. Portal, (2.), 121-132. Preuzeto s
MLA 8th Edition
Špikić, Marko. "Konzervirati ili restaurirati? Tekstovi Camilla Boita o zaštiti kulturne baštine, 1884.-1886.." Portal, vol. , br. 2., 2011, str. 121-132. Citirano 28.05.2020.
Chicago 17th Edition
Špikić, Marko. "Konzervirati ili restaurirati? Tekstovi Camilla Boita o zaštiti kulturne baštine, 1884.-1886.." Portal , br. 2. (2011): 121-132.
Špikić, M. (2011). 'Konzervirati ili restaurirati? Tekstovi Camilla Boita o zaštiti kulturne baštine, 1884.-1886.', Portal, (2.), str. 121-132. Preuzeto s: (Datum pristupa: 28.05.2020.)
Špikić M. Konzervirati ili restaurirati? Tekstovi Camilla Boita o zaštiti kulturne baštine, 1884.-1886.. Portal [Internet]. 2011 [pristupljeno 28.05.2020.];(2.):121-132. Dostupno na:
M. Špikić, "Konzervirati ili restaurirati? Tekstovi Camilla Boita o zaštiti kulturne baštine, 1884.-1886.", Portal, vol., br. 2., str. 121-132, 2011. [Online]. Dostupno na: [Citirano: 28.05.2020.]

Camillo Boito published a series of critical debates about the relation between conservation and restoration in the period between 1884 and 1886. They proved him to be the most ripe European conservation theoretician of his time, as he transferred issues previously discussed only on the theoretical level onto the practical and institutional realm, that is, he talked about them in terms of national cultural heritage management and legislation. The article gives an overview of the beginnings and development of new concepts in the field of conservation in four texts. The frst one it covers is the Esposizione Generale Italiana in Turin in 1884. In it Boito describes an experiment by architect-restorer Alfred D‘Andrade and his associates in the construction of a „mediaeval village“ (borgo medievale). The text is significant because, after Ruskin’s Opening of the Crystal Palace from 1854, a debate about reproduction as a way of valuing and preserving cultural heritage was initiated. D‘Andrade chose 15th century buildings in Piedmont and focused on the Borgo as a place of instruction, since Boito saw it as a blend of archaeology and copying for the purpose of strengthening national memory. Instead of the invention, there is composition, based on precise archaeological acquisitions (togliere) from geographically different but stylistically similar buildings of Piedmont. That way science and imagination were connected to the experimentation with reproductions in architecture, which opened a modern debate on facsimile reconstructions.
That same year, 1884, Boito also gave his famous lecture Restauratori. In it he condemned the methodology of stylistic restorers, arising out of the 16th century „restoration frenzy“ (la furia di restaurare). Instead of intervening, Boito advocated a conciliatory approach to a monument, warning restorers to beware of „forging antiques“ (falsifcazione dell‘antico) during re-integration (reintegrazione). Michelangelo’s models, conservators under Pius VII, Vitet and Merimée helped him oppose the restorers by offering a conservation principle.
In 1885 Boito continued the debate about conservation, but now he wanted to apply it at the level of state administration and legislation. Probably for the frst time, he wrote in the form of a dialogue about the burning issue of the long overdue national acts on the protection of cultural heritage. The context for the debate lie in initiatives in Europe and beyond, as evidenced by A. von Wussow’s book from the same year, Die Erhaltung der Denkmäler in den Kulturstaaten der Gegenwart. The two interlocutors in Boito’s dialogue discuss the structural, administrative problems of preserving Italian heritage by dividing it into eight monument provinces (le regioni monumentali). In addition to funding conservation and restoration work and joining technicians and historians, Boito proposed to expand the value horizon to the „entire history“ (tutto il passato), something William Morris also demanded in the SPAB Manifesto in 1877.
Italian legislators were supposed to follow the tradition of the Papal State and the former principalities. In the dialogue, the emphasis is placed on studying the heritage, creating catalogs and preparing restoration projects. Finally, in 1886 Boito published the dialogue entitled Our old monuments: conserve or restore? The text is interpreted as a prelude to 20 century debates, as the manifesto of the „new school“(nuova scuola), formed after the death of Viollet-le-Duc. The dialogue features concepts on the distinction between the original and restored part of an artwork and the publication of this difference, which influenced the theory of preservation as well as international conventions such as the Athens Charter of 1931, Italian Norms of Restoration from 1931 and the Venice Charter from the year 1964. Unlike the open condemnation of restorers after the 1884 Turin lecture, this dialogue develops Boito’s „intermediary theory“, which discusses the need to restore as a legitimate need, and elaborates clear ethical principles. By quoting the textual models of classical philologists (manifestation of emptiness, lacunas within the preserved document) for architectural restoration, Boito elaborated previously proclaimed principles of conservation and intervention into historical monuments in twelve points. They point to a philological sensibility and intellectual honesty of conservators and restorers, binding generations of professionals to the present day.

Ključne riječi
Camillo Boito; restoration; preservation; reproduction; state management of cultural heritage

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