mangalore today

Mangaluru: Paintings at St. Aloysius Chapel to be restored

Mangalore Today News Network

Mangaluru, Apr 14, 2018 : The world famous historic chapel art in the heart of St.Aloysius College Mangaluru on Lighthouse Hill, is a protected monumanet  which is a permanent attraction for visitors all year round. More than two decades after experts from Indian National Trust for Art and Cultural Heritage (INTACH) of  Lucknow restored the world famous paintings by Italian Jesuit master painter Br Antonio Moscheni (created in 1899), another team from INTACH, Delhi, is all set to restore the same with advanced scientific know how and technology.

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St Aloysius Institutions  had contacted INTACH, as the head of the previous team (that restored the paintings between 1991 to 1994) had suggested that the paintings be renovated every 20 years.

Accordingly, the prestigious national institute visited the chapel and INTACH Principal Director Nilabh Sinha submitted a detailed report in March 2017. The work on restoration commenced in November 2017 and is expected to be completed within 18 months (May 2019).

Giving details on the same, Nilabh Sinha said that during his visit in March 2016, he found that although the paintings are in good condition, signs of deterioration have set in and it was just the right time to redo the process of conservation to prolong the life of the rare paintings.

Noting that most of such damages are only up to seven feet (due to touching of visitors), Sinha said, “The factors of deterioration of an art form could be in the form of high-temperature, relative humidity, dust, pollution, light and several other climatic and human factors, which triggers chemical reactions leading to deterioration and decay of art forms.”

“A successful conservation treatment is based on scientific analysis of the materials involved in making of an art form, studying the pattern of deterioration, studying the extent of problems in the art forms and then coming up with a safe treatment procedure, which not only retards the phenomenon of deterioration, but also prolongs the life of an artefact,” he informed.

He also said that the new damages that have occurred in paintings are being treated properly and protection to paintings are being given, so that the conservation treatment shall increase the life of these 120-year old paintings, by another 25 years.

Stating that expert conservators from Delhi have been deputed for undertaking the work, Sinha said that he is also looking for local artistes, who will be taught the art of conservation by experts.

Terming the paintings as a national and international treasure, internationally acclaimed scientist and former Rector Rev Fr Leo D’Souza said that the project is taken up at a cost of Rs 1.5 crore and the entire expenses are borne by Jesuit Institutions, with the help from philanthropists.   He also said that an Italian painter, who visited the chapel recently, expressed his satisfaction about the restoration work. Incidentally, he also happens to be the husband of great grand niece of Br Antonio Moscheni.

Terming the paintings as rarest and hardly found anywhere in India, INTACH Principal Director Nilabh Sinha said that it is extremely difficult to create Fresco painting, as the artist needs to imagine what he is going to create in a day and complete the imagination before it dries.

Recap on the paintings :

Born in a village Stezzano near Bergamo, in Italy, on January 17, 1854, Antonio Moscheni studied under able masters and later went to Rome to study masterpieces of Vatican. In 1889, he renounced the prospects of a brilliant career, but he turned religious in Society of Jesus. His superiors asked him to paint several churches in his native and also in Albania and Yugoslavia.

They sent him to Mangaluru to paint the chapel of St Aloysius College. It took him little over two years to cover every inch of the walls and ceilings of the chapel with Frescos and oil paintings, depicting the life of Jesus and St Aloysius Gonzaga in 1899. Later, he painted Cathedral in Mumbai and a church in Cochin, all single handedly.

The central row of paintings on the ceiling depicts the life of Saint Aloysius Gonzaga, to whom the college and chapel are dedicated.   Aloysius earlier life is shown in the first three panels from the rear.   The central picture depicts him serving the plague stricken in Rome. He contracted the disease and died, at the age of 23.

The sloping ceiling panels portray the Apostles, with floral garlands weaving through the panels. No two garlands have the same flowers. The angels who hold the garland are life size. The upper arches depict saints of the Church. The lower arches depict Jesuit saints.

The painting on the rear wall shows Jesus as the friend of children. It is considered to be the masterpiece of Moscheni. Due to seepage of rain water the painting was covered with fungus and calcium carbonate crystals. It has now been restored but a patch of the unrestored painting has been left untouched below the woman seated at the right.  There are many paintings which take up the life of Jesus.

There are two types of paintings in the chapel: fresco and canvas. A fresco is painted on fresh wet lime plaster walls. The colours get embedded in the lime plaster as it dries up. Frescos cover about 600 square metres of the walls of the Chapel. For an oil painting, the colours are made by mixing pigments with linseed oil. The canvas is made of pure linen of strong close weave. The paintings on the ceilings in the Chapel (about 400 square metres) are in oil on canvas.