What better place is there to study Renaissance art than in the place where it all began? SU Abroad alumnus, Isaac Messina, had a once in a lifetime opportunity to study art restoration while abroad in Florence under an Italian conservator. His incredible apprenticeship was inspired by a course he was able to take while studying in SU’s center in Florence, Italy. Below he describes his work at an art restoration studio, which was his first hands-on experience with the work of art conservators.
Name: Isaac Messina
Major: Art History
School: Arts and Sciences
Project/Internship: Art Restoration Apprentice in the Studio of Antonio Casciani in Florence
Description: “My experience abroad in Florence in the spring of my sophomore year introduced me to art restoration, a career that I am now working to pursue. At Syracuse University in Florence, I took a course on Renaissance painting techniques led by Ezio Buzzegoli, a professional art restorer. Intrigued by the career of my professor, I toured a local painting restoration studio during my stay. Antonio Casciani, the lead restorer, worked in beautiful space next to the Boboli Gardens. Antonio specialized in structural conservation, dealing more with the frames, canvases, and the supports of paintings.
A Crown-Wise research grant from the university honors program allowed me to return to Florence in the summer of 2013 to apprentice in Antonio’s private studio. He challenged me to work hands-on with paintings and frames, assuring me that the best learning experience in restoration comes through one’s hands. He often gave me vague instructions, encouraging me to fail, reflect, and then improve. For each project, I documented and assessed the damage the work had suffered over the centuries. I then assisted by filling holes in canvases, reconstructing splintered gilded frames, and treating the surface of paintings. Antonio did not speak a word of English, so this experience challenged me to expand my language skills from table talk with my Italian host family each night to a vocabulary better suited for the specialized field of art conservation. This apprenticeship was an experience I will never forget, as it gave me my first taste of the work of a real conservator.”