The Vatican Coffin Project: Past – Present – Future

24 May 2016

Vatican Coffin ProjectVatican Coffin Project
Research and restoration of a wooden coffin from the collection of the National Museum of Antiquities.Research and restoration of a wooden coffin from the collection of the National Museum of Antiquities.

Double lecture about the Vatican Coffin Project, by dr. Alessia Amenta (curator Egyptian department, Vatican Museums) and prof. Ulderico Santamaria (director Laboratory of Diagnostic, Vatican museums).

  • date: Tuesday 24 May 2016
  • time: 15.00 - 16.30 hours
  • location: Temple Hall
  • entry: free
  • language: English

Vatican Coffin Project

The Vatican Coffin Project is a study initiated in 2008 by the Egyptian Dept. of the Vatican Museums and the Diagnostic Laboratory of the Vatican Museums to study polychrome coffins of the Third Intermediate Period in its first phase. At present the following are participating in the Project: Rijksmusem van Oudheden (Leiden), Musée du Louvre (Paris), Museo Egizio (Turin), Centre de Recherche et de Restauration des Musées de France (C2RMF, Paris), Centro di Conservazione Restauro La Venaria Reale (Turin), Victoria Asensi Amorós (xylologist, Paris), and Kathlyn M. Cooney (UCLA University - Los Angeles, for the study of the re-use of coffins).

Lecture dr. Amenta 

The Protocol of analyses of this project has been carried out by the Diagnostic Laboratory of the Vatican Museums.The first goal is the study of the construction and painting techniques of coffins of this  period, and the second one is the identification of any 'atelier'. The conclusions are supported by studies of coffin iconography and texts.The aim is to speak a single language, creating a 'vocabulary' (for conservation, diagnostic, construction and painting techniques) to be shared by all those involved in coffin studies. Many of the results obtained have been directly due to this team work, which involves Egyptologists, conservators and scientists. 

Lecture prof. Santamaria

We report on a multidisciplinary approach for analytic study and reconstruction of ancient polychrome Egyptian coffins which can be compared to other works of art (Roman art, Medieval art). For this purpose, we used different analytical techniques and compared the results and found it to be a valuable tool for the identification, documentation and reconstruction of the use of colour in antiquity.This approach has proved to be an excellent link between archaeological knowledge and scientific analyses. It effectively facilitates exchange of information and collaboration between experts in various disciplines. In this study we have compared different ‘yellow coffins’ with the famous Roman sculpture Augusto di Prima Porta, the medieval panel Last Judgement, etc. In all these case studies we have identified both the pigments and the techniques of application used, and have explored potential technologies in the reconstruction of ancient colour and painting techniques throughout history.

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