How do you restore a photograph? The Royal Palace of Caserta reveals it with the open restoration of a Mapplethorpe shot

The Royal Palace of Caserta reveals techniques for restoring a photograph and does so with one of Robert Mapplethorpe's black-and-white prints from the Terrae Motus series. It offers the open restoration site and a new social column.

The Royal Palace of Caserta reveals to the public techniques and details of one of the lesser-known specializations in the field of restoration: the restoration of photographic assets. On Saturday, Nov. 13 and Sunday, Nov. 14, it will be possible to witness the stages of the conservation intervention on one of the works of Terrae Motus, Robert Mapplethorpe’s black-and-white prints. Also starting Oct. 28, the museum is launching a new weekly social column, #DiariodiunRestauro/Mapplethorpe.
The Reggia di Caserta’s holdings also include Mapplethorpe’s group of prints titled Denis Speight with Thornes, Jack with Crown, Skull and Crossbones, Jill Chapman and Dennis Speight with Flowers.

The work, belonging to the collection conceived and donated by Lucio Amelio to the Reggia di Caserta, is the subject of research and conservation work, coordinated by the Palatine Library, Historical Archives, Photographic, Digitization service, curated by Sandra M. Petrillo - SMP international Photo Conservation Studio, in the Restoration Laboratories.

The museum office intends to involve the public in the many ongoing and planned activities. For this reason, on Nov. 13 and 14, from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., it will be possible to attend, with prior reservation required, the restoration phases at the Historical Archives and the adjoining laboratory. Access will be allowed to small groups up to a maximum number of 30 people per day. To book a visit to the site, write to or call 0823/1490225. Participation in the initiative is included in the regular cost of the Reggia di Caserta entrance/subscription ticket.

Starting Oct. 28, every Thursday, the progress of the study will be the focus of a new social column: #DiariodiunRestauro/Mapplethorpe. The restoration work was preceded by careful and thorough research into the author, materials, techniques and history of the work. Breaking with tradition, Robert Mapplethorpe did not print his photographs himself, as he was primarily interested in the moment of composition and shooting, but had them printed by professional printers. Among them was Tom Baril, his collaborator for about a decade. In the darkroom of Mappletorpe’s New York studio at 23 Bond Street in Lower Manhattan, Baril handled both the development of the negatives and the prints. The peculiar appearance of Mapplethorpe’s works from the 1980s (those belonging to the Terrae Motus collection are dated 1983) depends not only on the lighting used during the shooting, with the use of filtered lights, but also on the type of photographic papers chosen and above all on the printing techniques employed by Baril. In fact, at the artist’s request, the latter made use of an opaque glass screen under the enlarger’s lens; the bodies of the models photographed presented in this way very softened lines and a certain softness in the rendering of the skin.

How do you restore a photograph? The Royal Palace of Caserta reveals it with the open restoration of a Mapplethorpe shot
How do you restore a photograph? The Royal Palace of Caserta reveals it with the open restoration of a Mapplethorpe shot

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