Interlinea Fine Art Services has successfully completed its task of moving the life-sized chalk copy of one of the horses of St Mark’s Basilica in Venice, the original gilded Quadriga of which is now kept in St Mark’s Museum “Museo Marciano”. The task involved packing, transporting and positioning the artwork in the Gallerie dell’Accademia where it will be displayed to the public during the restoration and after the restoration of an exhibition.
And the amazement shown by the many tourists and, above all, by the Venetians themselves during the movement of one of the city’s most famous symbols, gives us an idea of the importance, including the symbolic importance, of this operation.
There are various cracks in the chalk, in particular near the joints, caused by the material naturally shedding over time and by the significant weight born by the structure; indeed, since the statue was created, an iron rod has been present in the centre, designed to prevent the three legs from being its only support, but this stacks all the weight on the base, where a crack has clearly appeared along the entire length of the work.
Particular attention was paid when handling the parts that might shed material, or where an entire part risked becoming detached. After an in-depth study, first of all, the art-handlers of Interlinea decided to proceed in binding the legs at the points where breakage might occur, even when the structure was only moved a few metres before packing. The heaviest parts, namely the head, neck and tail, were protected with shockproof material to bear their weight. The body was protected with supports to ensure that the weight was borne equally between the rod and the 3 weight-bearing legs.
The horse had not been moved for a considerable period of time and so nothing was known about its internal conditions (there were no X-rays available to verify the condition of the iron structure and where this was present in all parts of the artwork).
After an external analysis of the condition of the horse, in view of its overall fragility and the difficulty of the route, the entire protective crate was fitted with suspension bearings and wheels with tires suitable for travelling through the Venetian calli, or alleyways and supporting the continuous vibrations and stress caused by the irregularity of the road surfaces, characterised by ‘masegni’ (the typical trachyte slabs used to pave the city of Venice).
Indeed, the route included a section that wound through the narrow calli of Venice, where, in addition to the vibrations caused by the “masegni”, the sloping angles of the road also posed a challenge.
Some sections of the calli (the roads of Venice) featured central dips which, during the transportation of a particularly large crate (cm 260x290hx110), might have caused it to tip to one side. This swaying motion could have put the entire weight of the work on to the horse’s legs, causing slight or even serious damage.
Our technicians therefore carefully studied all the potential situations right down to the last detail, dealing with all the uneven parts of the road at critical moments, thanks to the tire-clad wheels, moved by a pneumatic lift.
This most risky event in this sort of challenge for the transportation of the work of art, was loading the work on to the motor boat. The first pier that could be used to load the crate on to the boat with a crane overlooks one of the busiest canals in Venice, where the movement of the waves causes any boat to sway with dangerous jolts.
As well as using a motor boat with a particularly stable iron crane, a local police escort was also organised (directly engaged by Interlinea) to ensure that the traffic slowed down and guarantee the smoothness of the manoeuvres.
Each phase of the process required high standards of quality and safety which the team from Interlinea Fine Art Services skilfully applied in each single step, making it possible to carry out the whole operation free from hitches and within the established timelines, but above all, to the great satisfaction of the officers of the Superintendence of Venice.