Conservation of Cultural Heritage

Conservazione Beni Culturali

The research unit deals with topics concerning cultural heritage diagnostics and conservation. The materials analysed are mainly wall paintings, bronzes and stones, both natural (rocks) and artificial (bricks and mortars), used with building and ornamental purpose in sculptures, monuments, historical buildings and archaeological contexts. Research activities are carried out with a mineralogical-petrographic and geochemical approach, and include the characterization of materials and their decay processes, the study of real cases during conservation interventions, and archaeometric and authentication issues.


The main research fields are the following:

  • mineralogical-petrographic, chemical e physical characterization;
  • identification of provenance;
  • study of alteration/decay processes and phenomena;
  • mapping of materials and state of conservation of works of art and historical centers;
  • study of ancient treatments of monumental and sculptural surfaces;
  • identification of pictorial techniques in ancient wall paintings;
  • analysis of casting cores of bronze sculptures in the frame of studies on execution techniques, identification of provenance, characterization of foundry workshops and authentication;
  • study and validation of the interaction between materials and products/methods for restoration;
  • validation of new instruments for diagnostics.


The R.U. has the Labs of: Ultrathin Sections, Optical Microscopy, X-ray diffraction for Cultural Heritage Conservation, Determination of physical properties, 3D digital microscopy.

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  • Tuscan monuments (e.g. Siena City Hall and Cathedral, San Gimignano Collegiate Church, Montemassi fortress, San Frediano church in Pisa, Porta della Mandorla in the Florence Cathedral);
  • marble sculptures by Michelangelo (David, Pietà Rondanini, San Paolo and San Pietro in the Altare Piccolomini in Siena Cathedral), Donatello (Geremia), Andrea Bregno (Altare Piccolomini in Siena Cathedral), Jacopo della Quercia (Fonte Gaia), pulpits by Nicola Pisano (Siena Cathedral) and Giovanni Pisano (Sant’Andrea church in Pistoia);
  • mappings on ARCGIS and SICONART platforms of Siena, Colle Val d’Elsa, San Gimignano and Massa Marittima Historical centres;
  • archaeological excavations of Populonia Acropolis, of Roselle and Campagnatico and of the Canonica di San Niccolò in Montieri;
  • Sienese wall paintings from XIII to XVII centuries (medieval wall paintings under Siena Cathedral, paintings in Cappella del Manto and Sagrestia Vecchia at Santa Maria della Scala complex, paintings in the former San Marco College, Logge della Mercanzia paintings);
  • archaeological bronzes from the Medicean Collection (Minerva d’Arezzo, Arringatore, Chimera) and Tuscan Renaissance and Mannerism large bronzes (Sacrificio di Isacco and Porta del Paradiso by Lorenzo Ghiberti, David and Amore-Attis by Donatello, Incredulità di San Tommaso by Andrea del Verrocchio, Predica del Battista by Giovanfrancesco Rustici, Decollazione del Battista by Vincenzo Danti).

The Research Unit collaborates with the following institutions: Istituto di Fisica Applicata “Nello Carrara”, Florence (IFAC-CNR); Laboratorio di Tecniche Nucleari per i Beni Culturali at Istituto Nazionale di Fisica Nucleare, Florence section (LABEC-INFN); Istituto per la Conservazione e la Valorizzazione dei Beni Culturali, Florence (ICVBC-CNR); Opificio delle Pietre Dure, Florence; Istituto Centrale del Restauro, Rome; Laboratories of Superintendences of Aosta and Bologna, the Universities of Florence, Pisa, Venice, Urbino and Messina.

Besides, the research unit collaborates with local Superintendences and other institutions dealing with conservation and development of cultural heritage (e.g.  Siena municipality) and with the Accademia dei Fisiocritici – Siena.

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  • TEMART – Advanced techniques for the material knowledge and the conservation of the historical-artistical patrimony, 2010-2013 cofounded by the European Fund for Regional Development (POR CreO FESR 2007-2013)
  • STArT – Sciences and technologies for Tuscan Artistic Architectonic and Archaeological Heritage, 2007-2011. Cofounded by Tuscan Region.
  • OPTOCANTIERI – Tecnologie avanzate per i beni culturali - diagnostica, restauro, documentazione e formazione, 2003-2004 (Advanced technologies for cultural heritage – Diagnostics, restoration, documentation and education). Co-financed by Tuscan Region
  • Project PARNASO Syremont S.p.A. - Development of a new investigation advanced system for the determination of the wear of floors in historical buildings: the Siena Cathedral Floor, 2000-2002.
  • Francesca Droghini (collaborator)
  • Sonia Mugnaini, PhD (collaborator)
  • Andrea Scala (technician)
  • Alessandro Terrosi (technician)