Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Luke Olbrich and Daniela Murphy Corella
during the press conference and inauguration of 
the Moladi pannel painting, Carmine Church,
 Florence, 7 October 2017
Dear Friends

Remarkably, it is now over two years since the Mircea Maria Gerard Fund was established in loving memory of my husband, Mircea. This fact brings with it mixed emotion, for me personally, as I consider life without someone with whom I shared most of his adult life for 16 magical years.   A constant sense of loss and sadness is mixed with a simple sense of joy from the beauty which the foundation has achieved in the projects undertaken in his memory, and in the works that continue to share their serene beauty and inspiration with millions of visitors to Florence every year.

As I look forward to the third year of the foundation, I’m inspired as I look back since April 2016 by what is simply the camaraderie and goodwill amongst the colleagues at the Bastioni Association, members of the Florentine art community and by you, the friends, family and donors, as we establish a lasting tribute to his memory.

One of the first projects was the reinstallation of the Putti fountain “Putto with Dolphin” which was Mircea’s last restoration work, which now continues to delight with its silent, smooth waters flowing again, back in place in the Piazza della Signoria, and looking as beautiful as in 1500s when it was first installed. 

The bronze statue is situated on the summit of a beautiful 16th-century Carrara marble and porphyry stone fountain. This fountain is the main feature of the prestigious Michelozzo courtyard at Palazzo Vecchio, Piazza della Signoria, Florence. The Mircea Maria Gerard Fund is currently supporting the City Town Hall of Florence, who commissioned the conservation/restoration campaign, in a long-term maintenance plan for the fountain in Mircea’s name. This support entails maintenance treatments to be carried out once a year for a cycle of three years on a renewable basis.

Following the work in the Piazza della Signoria, we kicked off a major restoration work in Q1 2017 involving the complete restoration of a massive panel painting in the Santa Maria del Carmine church. After painstaking work, all funded by the foundation, we unveiled the finished work in October 2017 at a press conference and event in the church and the cloister next door.  Videos describing conservation treatments are published on our Youtube Channel; from research and analysis, to scaffolding and dismounting of the work, to the painstaking procedures undertaken for months to bring this beautiful work back to all of its glory.

In addition to practical restoration projects, we have determined that it would be important to balance out the small efforts undertaken in by also supporting students of conservation, in order to ensure that the skills and knowledge required to maintain and restore our art heritage is passed along and secured for future generations.

As a result, in 2016 and again in 2017 we provided stipends to seven students to cover costs required to attend the Italian branch of the International Conservation and Restoration societies’ annual conference in Italy Lo Stato dell’Arte 2016 – State of the Arts 2017.  

As I join my friends and colleagues in Florence this month to scope out new projects, we have already scheduled another major restoration work in the Chiesa del Carmine, directly across from the now restored Death of St Albert panel painting, and will begin work on restoration of the 19th century oil painting of the birth of Christ by Gambacanni.  A wonderful circle of continuity, respecting both death and new life.

On a personal note I would like to add how important this fund is, not just in terms of keeping the memory of our beloved Mircea alive; his work, his creativity, his enthusiasm for a profession that delves into the past to reclaim a better understanding of our present, but because contributing to the fund means sustaining our artistic heritage, our past, the ground roots of what we are today and what we can become tomorrow.

We will continue also to provide funds for art restoration students to support them in developing their skills to continue the work in maintaining our shared cultural heritage.

Many of you have taken the opportunity over the last year to visit the Carmine restoration site, as well as the Bastioni restoration workshop.  Do please come and visit, and also provide whatever you can to off-set the costs of the Gambacanni Nativity painting restoration, which will be approximately 40,000 euros. Any amount is very much needed and appreciated.

All the best

Luke Olbrich

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