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Patrons help French restore fresco in Rome palace

Wednesday - 2/26/2014, 7:20pm  ET

Cracks mark the frescoed ceilings of the Carracci Gallery in the Farnese Palace that hosts the French Embassy in Rome, Wednesday, Feb. 26, 2014. The World Monuments Fund Europe will allocate some 800 million Euros for the restoration of the about 140 square meters of 16th century frescoes by Annibale and Agostino Carracci that will begin mid March and are expected to be completed in 2015. (AP Photo/Domenico Stinellis)

FRANCES D'EMILIO
Associated Press

ROME (AP) -- Some of the most splendid frescoes in one of Rome's most stunning Renaissance palazzi are getting a much needed face-lift.

The Carracci Gallery, a salon whose ceiling was frescoed with sensual nudes and playful cherubs to celebrate the wedding of a pope's niece, will be closed to tourists in the Farnese Palace until late spring 2015.

The palace is home to the French Embassy, which said Wednesday patronage of the World Monuments Fund Europe will help cover the 800,000 euro ($1.1 million) restoration of the 400-year-old frescoes.

Besides cleaning the paintings, restoration beginning mid-March involves repairing cracks and water infiltration damage.

With France facing European Union pressure to control public finances, Deputy Ambassador Erkki Maillard promised the restoration will be at zero cost to French taxpayers.

The palazzo's facade features details by Michelangelo. But to admire the embassy's splendid interior, including frescoes commissioned by Cardinal Odoardo Farnese to Annibale Carracci in 1597, tourists must make reservations for small weekly tours, to be suspended during restoration.

"So many tourists knock on our door and say, 'Can we come in and look?'" Maillard said.

The World Monuments Fund Europe president, Bertrand du Vignaud, said a condition for his organization's aid is the architectural or artistic site be open to the public.

The Gallery features mirrors, strategically placed on imposing tables, so visitors can admire fresco details without craning necks. One ceiling detail highlighted by multilingual guides is a mischievous peeing cherub. Artistic depiction of such vulgar details, as well as of muscular male nudes and topless females, is considered remarkable since the fresco was commissioned toward the end of the Counter Reformation, when artists, to please the Vatican, often clothed their creations, in contrast to earlier Renaissance celebration of the human body.

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