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Insights | 02/08/2018

An online database for the conservation and study of the Uffizi ancient sculptures

An online database for the conservation and study of the Uffizi ancient sculptures

The idea of digitising the restoration documents for the ancient sculptures in the Uffizi, using SICaR goes back to 2014. SICaR is an open-source software that makes it possible to collect, organise and consult, online, all types of documents about an intervention, with the added possibility of being able to map the information on a measurable 2D image of a sculpture.



Over the last decade the restoration work of the Department of Classical Antiquity of the Gallery of Statues and Paintings has been particularly intense, with more than 200 interventions carried out on works of various types, ranging from full figure statues, to busts, sarcophagi, urns, funerary altars, altars and epigraphs. Almost all of them were handmade objects in white marble and, in rare instances, small bronzes and breccia or coloured marbles. Exhibitions devoted to sculptures from the deposits[1], the opening of new rooms reserved for the display of ancient statuary[2], the restoration of historic areas of the Gallery containing the best pieces of the archaeological collection (Niobe Room, Tribuna and the Stanzino delle Matematiche)[3] and the growing number of requests for loans for national and international exhibitions of the museum’s marbles all gave rise to this work[4].

Public and private funding has supported this concentration of initiatives. In the fortunate case of the Uffizi, the latter was particularly significant thanks to the generosity of non-profit organizations, both Italian and foreign, such as Italia Nostra, Amici degli Uffizi, Friends of Florence. Moreover, at the same time, the management has organized special tours of Greek and Roman sculpture, offering visitors a number of opportunities to get to know and admire the dozens of classical statues, portraits and reliefs, which for centuries have made the Medici collection and the “Gallery of Statues” so well-known.

Insofar as it was possible to tell, this conservation project has had, in addition to scientific repercussions, a positive effect on the Gallery’s communications programme. The Uffizi’s public, which is normally attracted almost exclusively to the Renaissance masterpieces, has shown a growing interest in the renewed prestige of the archaeological nucleus, thanks to the restoration work that has returned it to its full splendour.

These interventions have been carried out almost exclusively by external professionals who since 2016 have been chosen directly by the management, together with the Opificio delle Pietre Dure in Florence[5]. Restorers are contractually required to provide documentation of the work carried out upon completion of the work – as foreseen by Italian legislation – including a final report on the restoration and photographic documentation of the state of the artefact before, during and after the intervention[6]. All the documentation is kept in the Gallery’s Restoration Archive, which consists of paper copies and traditional photographic materials (negatives, slides, photographs) as well as digital materials, collected in files organized using a progressive numbering system (known as GRU, i.e. Gabinetto Restauri Uffizi), allocated based on the date of entry of the documentation and the classification of the object (paintings on canvas and wood panels, sculptures and tapestries). The experimental digitization of the Uffizi’s ancient sculptures restoration documents in the SICaR information system dates back to the end of 2014. The decision was taken as a result of the determination of MiBACT to make the use of the database habitual in the programming and management of restorations[7], encouraging us to test its effectiveness and usefulness in the context of the ordinary and extraordinary conservation activities of our collections.


What is SICaR

SICaR (Sistema Informativo per i Cantieri di Restauro, Information System for Restorations)[8] is an open-source software dedicated to restoration. It is an online working database for the collection, organization and consultation of all types of documents (text, graphic, photographic, video) regarding the intervention, with the ability to map this information onto a 2-D image of the object. The web-based GIS system essentially permits the creation of a single “container” for a set of heterogeneous – and where appropriate geo-referenceable – data (technical, scientific, administrative, historical, artistic) produced during a restoration: the preliminary provisions laid down in the planning phase, the state of critical studies, the results of diagnostic investigations, descriptions of the phases of the intervention, the maintenance plan and monitoring[9].

The aspects of the programme that seemed to be the most interesting right from the start and that persuaded us to use it systematically were without doubt the opportunity to share the information entered in real time and the interoperability with other online digital archives. In fact, when the works were initiated, we decided to use SICaR on one hand as a freely accessible database to store the technical and scientific information that came to light during the most recent restorations, and on the other hand, to facilitate communication with other digital archives adopted by management[10]. Therefore, it was decided in agreement with MiBACT[11] to transfer to the SICaR system all the documentation regarding the restoration of ancient sculptures since 2009 directed by Fabrizio Paolucci, curator of the Uffizi antiquity collections.

After an initial phase of consultation and comparison with storage models we had already tested[12], during which the modalities of the conceptual organization of the data were defined in principle, we proceeded with the training of operators specifically dedicated to the entry of the documentation into the database[13]. From the outset we realized that, in most cases, we would be working with documentation for already completed restorations, which meant that on the one hand digitization would be quick and on the other hand that there would be an inevitable dwindling of new, collectable information[14].

With regard to the compilation criteria it was decided to adopt a coded scheme organized into three interconnected sections, “Mobile Works”, “Restoration” and “Reference System”, referring respectively to the cataloguing of the object, the description of the restoration and its graphic representation.

Mobile Works

This section presents the main fields of the ICCD data sheets and can be considered to be the identity card of the work. It contains the essential information (author or cultural sphere, title, inventory number, dating, material and technique, measurements, legal status, etc.), the description of the object (what it portrays and which are the ancient parts and modern integrations), historical and critical information (iconography and history of the work, with an indication of the places in which has been exhibited or kept) and bibliographical references[15]. Generally the data sheet is linked to an image and where possible to other historical photographic documentation, as in the case of the Venus of Belvedere data sheet (inv. 1914 no. 155; fig. 1), to which the following have been linked: reproduction of a sixteenth-century drawing by a Flemish author depicting the statue still in one piece after the Ammannati restoration and a photo of the sculpture taken before the Fifties depicting it with the eighteenth-century integrations which were removed later [16]. Another example of historical data is the data sheet of the Funerary altar of C. Telegennio Antho (inv. 1914 no. 973) to which the reproduction of a Gaspar Van Wittel painting and a Giovanni Francesco Venturini incision are linked. Both the seventeenth-century works depict the rear façade of the Villa Medici in Rome, where in the centre in front of the staircase a Flavia era altar is shown, used as the basis of Bartolomeo Ammannati's Marte Gradivo. A connection has also been established with a photo of Marino Marini’s Pomona statue, which was also on an altar in the past.

The “Mobile Works” section is georeferenced on the Gallery’s floor plan where the work is located; therefore, the user can immediately see the exact location of the sculpture in the museum.



This section contains all the information regarding the restoration, from the date of execution to the administrative data (who funded, carried out and supervised the work), and the actual report in the “Object” sub sheet (fig. 2), where the process of the intervention is illustrated in detail, accompanied by extensive photographic documentation. The initial paragraphs are dedicated to the constituent materials of the work and the technique employed; followed by a paragraph on the diagnostic analysis undertaken, a description of the state of conservation of the sculpture before restoration and any previous interventions and, lastly, the work phases, specifying the tools and materials used by the restorer. Three clear, descriptive images of the restoration are attached to the “Restoration” sheet, one for each of the main stages of the operation (“Before”, “During” and “After”), so that the user has an instant and concise overview of the whole operation carried out.

It is interesting to note that among the many benefits that SICaR offers with respect to traditional documentation is the opportunity to add archival and historical iconographic input from external sources, for a better understanding of the work upon completion of the restoration documentation. For example, in the case of the Hercules and Nessus sculpted group (inv. 1914 no. 77), comparison with the print in Gori’s book on Florentine sculptures[17] and the drawing from the illustrated inventory put together by the abbot De Greyss[18] (both works from the middle of the 18th century) has proved to be particularly important in defining the antiquity of props visible in the group today.

Reference System

The “Reference System” is the graphic base on which the mappings are drawn, which in turn refer to information relating to the state of conservation and restoration of the object. Unlike the previous purely alphanumeric sections, this shows the intervention, projecting it directly onto the measurable image of the object. In order to give a comprehensive and exhaustive overview of the work carried out on three-dimensional objects, four photos of the sculpture are usually employed (front, right side, left side, back), normally relating to the next step of the restoration and on which the polygons are traced with different colours, highlighting the additions, alterations, damage found and the operations performed. Each polygon refers to a legend of categories and “subcategories” (i.e. the levels or layers of work), which the user decides to activate or deactivate according to need.

Of the main categories identified as essential for the implementation of the database, the integrations carried out on the antique marbles stand out (post-ancient and/or modern). Thanks to the completeness of the restorer's graphic reports, they have been shown in all the reference systems realized (figs. 3-4).

Given the documentation in our possession, the structuring of the layer category related to the state of conservation is more complex, since in most cases the completion report does not include a corresponding image. In particular, it has been difficult to carry out the mapping of the surface deterioration or deposits that were highlighted in the course of the intervention. Not having been reported in the mappings they were no longer recognizable and consequently not geo-referenceable. This was the case for Apollo Sauroktonos restaurato come Liricine (inv. 1914 no. 249), where it was impossible to limit areas affected by more resistant dirt or the protective layer applied during the previous restoration (probably fluorinated copolymer).

A good example, which attests to an important exception with respect to the above-mentioned difficulties in mapping the state of conservation, is seen in the group sculpture of Hercules and the Centaur Nesso (fig. 5), whose restoration constitutes a model of the use of SICaR simultaneously with the execution of the restoration. In this intervention, the restorer Paola Rosa managed to gather a considerable amount of important information concerning the conservation conditions and to carry out, in the course of the work, mappings of the decay and deterioration, identifying them with the GIS employed. It would be helpful if operators in the sector were to contribute to the drafting of the IT data sheets, at least for the technical aspects. A further opportunity for fruitful collaboration occurred during the restoration of the Hora statue (inv. 1914 no. 136), for which the restorer herself, Miriam Ricci, carried out the digitalization as she worked. Therefore, it is not too much to hope that in the near future, the SICaR cataloguing model will replace traditional documentation completely.

The mappings highlighted, among other things, any traces of ancient colours detected in the analysis. In fact, in the documentation entered in SICaR the data derived from the results of archaeometric surveys carried out on the Gallery’s sculptures converge, both at the time of the restoration and in other years[19]. In particular, many years of active cooperation between the Uffizi Gallery and the Department of Chemistry of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia team, coordinated by Professor Pietro Baraldi, has allowed us to carry out systematic research on the traces of ancient colours with extremely good results[20]. Given that it is possible to create one or more connections between polygons and data sheets of all kinds in the system, in the case of the colours we have chosen to connect the polygons representing the traces of colour with the relevant previously compiled “Analysis” data sheet and, where possible, also with a corresponding image (Fig. 6)[21]. Examples include perhaps the most famous Uffizi statue, the Medici Venus (inv. 1914 no. 224; fig. 7)[22], where traces of gold were found on the hair (fig. 8) and Egyptian blue on the wave under the dolphin; or the Bas-relief with Maenads (inv. 1914 no. 318; fig. 9), surprising for the quantity of colorimetric data found, in particular for the traces of the original coating of gold leaf used for the women’s hair, jewellery and the thyrsus, as well as for the residue of purple on the garments.

Lastly, it should be mentioned that in this respect two important interventions took place between 2015 and 2016. The first was the Medicean Vase (inv. 1914 no. 307)[23], the precious marble vessel of the 1st century B.C., which is in the process of being entered in SICaR. During the restoration analyses were carried out that revealed several traces of colour including gold, Egyptian blue, cinnabar red and various shades of ochre. In the second, the restoration of the already cited Funerary altar of C. Antho Telegennio[24], ancient remains of colour were also found: red and green on the leaves of the tree carved on the right side and red near the epigraphic mirror in the front (fig. 10).


Future Projects

There are now 133[25] Uffizi works catalogued in SICaR, many of which can already be freely accessed by external users[26]. The others are still not visible either because they are incomplete or being revised. As regards future projects, very soon we will enter into SICaR the mappings of the “grotesque” frescoes in the Gallery’s Levante Corridor, thus contributing to the spread of knowledge on the extraordinary sixteenth-century pictorial decorations of the Uffizi[27].

Moreover, thanks to the willingness of the Gallery to invest in the programme, shortly some system developments will be implemented, including new commands and, consequently, simpler data entry and structure. It will then be possible for external users to navigate in a more simple and intuitive way, and to better visualize links, attachments and external data of various kinds.

Within a museum context as important as the Uffizi, the use of SICaR could be able to offer a significant contribution to the management of the state of the works and the programming of future initiatives. In fact, the system is also congenial to monitoring the condition of assets in the exhibition spaces, the planning of ordinary maintenance and the recording of movements. The synoptic display and chronological history of the conservation of the work will enable experts to find past reports immediately when planning any subsequent interventions.

Lastly, we plan to make SICaR a fundamental experimental tool. Thanks to the collaboration with the University of Indiana, in the person of Professor Bernie Frischer, since the summer of 2015 3-D mapping has been, and is still being, undertaken, of all the Uffizi–Palazzo Pitti ancient sculptures. The signed agreement affects the entire Uffizi Gallery collection of stone works[28], and will allow the State to archive, free of charge, hundreds of 3-D models which can be used for more precise mapping of the Gallery’s sculptures. However, the entry methods of the digital representations into our database[29] is still to be clarified.

Other museums have already implemented this approach (for example, the Vatican Museums)[30] but with this initiative MiBACT and SICaR will be the protagonists for the first time, with a project specifically designed for the study and preservation of the Uffizi Gallery’s collection of antiquities.



[1] The main opportunity was offered by the Faces Unveiled. The Ancient and a Passion for the Ancient exhibition held in the Uffizi Gallery’s Sala delle Reali Poste between 2011 and 2012, which made a selection of 45 antique busts of exceptional quality available to the public (see Conticelli - Paolucci 2011).

[2] In particular, rooms 33 and 34, dedicated to Greek portraiture and the evocation of the ancient in the Garden of Saint Mark respectively, and Room 56, devoted to Hellenistic marbles, in which some of the most famous sculptures of the collection are on display, such as the Gaddi Torso and the Spinario.

[3] See Natali - Romuald 2009 and Natali et al 2014.

[4] For a quick overview of the activities related to the Gallery’s ancient marbles from 2009 to today, see the annual Bollettino degli Uffizi. More limited interventions were published in the series entitled Studi e restauri. I marmi antichi della Galleria degli Uffizi(from 2006).

[5] As established by Convention 4.7 of 9 March 2016 “Agreement of institutional cooperation between the Uffizi Galleries and the Opificio delle Pietre Dure”.

[6] See the Ministry of Public Education, Italian Restoration Charter, Circular no. 117 of 6 April 1972; MiBACT-MIT Decree no. 154, 22 August 2017, “Regulation for public works contracts regarding protected cultural heritage within the meaning of Art. 26 of Legislative Decree no. 42, 22 January 2004”.

[7] With the Directorate General for the Landscape, Fine Arts, Architecture and Contemporary Art Circular no. 31/2011 of 22/12/2011, subject “Project RE.ART (Restorations Online): dissemination and use of SW for Restoration (SICaR)”, MiBACT officially invited the local heritage authority to activate and use SICaR on a regular basis to record ongoing or planned restorations, encouraging them to enter both the restorations of protected heritage objects promoted and funded directly by the Ministry and those financed by third parties. For more information, see Fabiani et al, pp. 3-4.

[8] SICaR was started in 2003, within the scope of the Optocantieri project, promoted by the Tuscany Region with the advice of the Pisa Heritage Authority, intended to assist small and medium-sized enterprises with the use of advanced technologies for diagnostics and restoration of cultural heritage assets. Developed by Liberologico SRL, with the coordination of MiBACT and the scientific support of the Pisa Scuola Normale Superiore, the system was the subject of extensive experimentation carried out between 2005 and 2007 on a national scale within the wider ART-PAST programme, with the aim of achieving a web-based GIS system for the management of the restorations. In the wake of the results achieved, the Ministry has officially adopted SICaR, supervising its dissemination among heritage authorities and state museums through a special project called RE.ART (2008). The intention was to teach staff to use it for the documentation of restoration projects in progress or in the design phase (Circulation no. 31/2011 op.cit.). For a summary of the genesis of SICaR and numerous related activities, see Fabiani et al 2016. For a detailed bibliography of the system, see  http://sicar.beniculturali.it:8080/website/bibliografia/

[9] To consult the data published in SICaR, go to http://sicar.beniculturali.it:8080/website/, open the window “Consultation” and click on “Search in SICaR”. To narrow the search, choose the working group (in our case “Florence–Uffizi–Greek and Roman Sculptures”), then enter the keyword in the “Search Text” field or opt for “Advanced Search”. In order to be able to work in SICaR, go to http://sicar.beniculturali.it:8080/index.php address  and enter the ID and password assigned by the MiBACT administrator, after approval of the request for the creation of a dedicated work area.

[10] For example, there is now a link to the 1914 Sculptures Inventory, currently not accessible because the website is being updated. We hope to restore this connection, as well as create one with the SIGECweb Cultural Heritage General Catalogue. The SICaR “Mobile Works” data sheets could be used as a starting point for the compilation of the RA (Archaeological Finds) data sheet catalogue, considering that the Uffizi sculptures have not yet been documented within the General Information System Catalogue.

[11] Francesca Fabiani, national coordinator of SICaR web, with whom the working group is in contact, and Raffaella Grilli, who has supported us since the first phase of the activity.

[12] At the beginning of the work, the only existing example of digitization of archaeological stone restoration material in SICaR was the documentation inserted by the Restoration Laboratories of the Ravenna SBAP Heritage Authority, which provided an excellent theoretical model from which to draw inspiration. The first step was to test SICaR on a recent restoration, the Bas-relief depicting a chariot (inv. 1914 no. 539), which allowed us to create georeferenced mappings of a planar sculpture, with minor issues with respect to those found in a three-dimensional work and, therefore, congenial to a first phase of use of the tool.

[13] The first SICaR work phase, which lasted about 12 months, involved the collaboration of interns working in the Department of Classical Antiquity. Subsequently the project was, and still is, entrusted to the staff of the Uffizi Restoration Archive, directed by Claudio Di Benedetto and coordinated by Valentina Conticelli. The working group, under the scientific supervision of Fabrizio Paolucci, both writes the text, and revises the material already inserted and implements it. 

[14] Infra.

[15] Two books published at the end of the Fifties by Guido Achille Mansuelli on the Uffizi Gallery sculpture collection are an essential source for a prior knowledge of the works. We also found more precious information in the fourth volume of La Villa Médicis, dedicated to the sculptures once kept in the well-known villa on the Pincio Hill in Rome. Lastly, catalogues of exhibitions where some of the Gallery’s marbles were exhibited have proved to be essential (see Mansuelli 1958-1961; Cecchi - Gasparri 2009).

[16] For the history and vicissitudes of the statue, see Paolucci 2013.

[17] Gori 1734.

[18] De Greyss 1759.

[19] An important example of SICaR experimentation with showing polychromy data with polygons and the “Analysis” data sheet can be seen in the “Rome–Vatican Museums Polychromy” working group’s experience, which built on the analysis of the Lateranense Sarcophagus no.150, in the Vatican Museums Pio Cristiano Museum. For more details see Siotto et al 2016.

[20] For a review of the ancient colours of the Uffizi marbles see Paolucci 2014b.

[21] Therefore, the user can select the polygon, click on the command “Interrogate Polygon” in the window “Actions” and open the links that appear upon scrolling down.

[22] For further information on the restoration of the sculpture, see Paolucci 2014a.

[23] Romuald 2006 explains the history and iconography of the vase in depth.

[24]See Paolucci 2016 on the restoration of the altar.

[25] The work carried out was presented for the first time on the occasion of the Ferrara Restoration Fair in 2016, with the contribution The Example of the Uffizi Ancient Sculptures, as part of the seminar Fifty Shades of SICaR: Information System for Restorations (6-8 April 2016). The group also took part in the last edition of the Florence Art and Restoration Fair (16-18 May 2018), explaining their activities in the talk, SICaR: the System Adopted by MiBACT for the Documentation of Restorations. The latter saw the participation of many experts in the field, who were intrigued and interested in understanding the potential of SICaR for other types of assets as well.

[26]Very soon it will be possible to consult the data sheets online, on the Uffizi Gallery website.

[27] The way of entering documentation on the grotesques in SICaR is being defined and is under the scientific coordination of Valentina Conticelli.

[28] The 3-D models of about 1,260 works of art will be available online by 2020, for both research and conservation purposes.

[29] We will be able to use the “External Data” data sheet to create a link with the Indiana University website where it will be possible to view the 3-D models, or upload them directly as video clips. It would be very interesting to work only in a 3-D environment if future developments of SICaR allow it, mapping the decay or integrations directly onto the 3-D system employed.

[30] See http://www.museivaticani.va/content/museivaticani/it/eventi-e-novita/iniziative/il-giovedi-dei-musei/2017/digitalizzazione-modellazioni-3d.html. For 3-D experimentation in SICaR, see Siotto et a 2016, pp. 148-149.




Bollettino degli Uffizi: Bollettino della Galleria degli Uffizi. 2009-2013, edited by F. Chezzi and M. Onali, Florence 2010-2014.

Cecchi - Gasparri 2009: A. Cecchi, C. Gasparri, Le collezioni del cardinale Ferdinando. I dipinti e le sculture, in La Villa Médicis, IV vol., Rome 2009.

Conticelli - Paolucci 2011: Volti svelati: antico e passione per l’antico, catalogue of the exhibition (Florence, 15 December 2011 - 29 January 2012), edited by V. Conticelli and F. Paolucci, Leghorn 2011.

De Greyss 1759: Atlante figurato di Galleria (conserved at the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek in Vienna), edited by B. F. De Greyss, Florence 1759.

Fabiani et al 2016: F. Fabiani, R. Grilli, V. Musetti, Verso nuove modalità di gestione e presentazione della documentazione di restauro: SICaR web la piattaforma in rete del Ministero dei Beni e delle Attività Culturali e del Turismo, in “Bollettino Ingegneri”, Collegio degli Ingegneri della Toscana, III, 2016, pp. 3-13.

Gori 1734: A. F. Gori, Museum Florentinum, Statuae antiquae deorum et virorum, Florence 1734.

Mansuelli 1958-1961: G. A. Mansuelli, Galleria degli Uffizi. Le sculture, I-II, Rome 1958-1961.

Natali et al 2014: La Tribuna del principe: storia, contesto, restauro, atti del Colloquio internazionale (Firenze, 29 novembre - 1 dicembre 2012), edited by A. Natali, A. Nova, M. Rossi, Florence 2014.

Natali - Romualdi 2009: A. Natali, A. Romualdi, Il Teatro di Niobe: la rinascita agli Uffizi d’una sala regia, Florence 2009.

Paolucci 2013: F. Paolucci, La Venere Aurea ritrovata, in Dósis d'olíge te phíle te: studi per Antonella Romualdi, Florence 2013, pp. 507-525.

Paolucci 2014a: F. Paolucci, La Venere dei Medici alla luce dei recenti restauri, in La Tribuna del principe: storia, contesto, restauro, atti del colloquio internazionale (Firenze, 29 novembre - 1 dicembre 2012), edited by A. Natali, A. Nova, M. Rossi, Florence 2014, pp. 178-189.

Paolucci 2014b: F. Paolucci, Marmi dorati. Esempi di rivestimento a foglia d’oro su alcuni marmi antichi della Galleria degli Uffizi, in Oro sacro. Aspetti religiosi ed economici da Atene a Bisanzio, “Ornamenta”, V, 2014, pp. 53-73.

Paolucci 2016: F. Paolucci, Altare funerario di C. Telegennio Antho, in Restituzioni 2016: Tesori d’Arte restaurati, catalogo della mostra (Milano, 1 aprile - 17 luglio 2016), edited by C. Bertelli e G. Bonsanti, Venice 2016, pp. 68-72.

Romualdi 2006: A. Romualdi, La nuova collocazione del Vaso Medici nel Verone sull’Arno, in Studi e restauri: i marmi antichi della Galleria degli Uffizi, edited by A. Romualdi, I, Florence 2006, pp. 162-188.

Siotto et al 2016: E. Siotto, C. Baracchini, U. Santamaria, R. Scopigno, Sperimentazione del sistema ministeriale SICaR w/b per la gestione e la consultazione informatizzata dei dati sulla policromia, in “Archeologia e calcolatori”, XXVII, 2016, pp. 131-151.

Studi e restauri: Studi e restauri. I marmi antichi della Galleria degli Uffizi, edited by A. Romuald and F. Paolucci, I-IV, Florence 2006-2013.







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