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Obituary Giuseppe Basile, 1942-2013

Inserito in Ricordi

da ICCROM 2 agosto 2013 di Rosalia Varoli-Piazza and Paul Arenson


Art historian and prominent expert on conservation and restoration theory, Prof Giuseppe Basile, ex-Director of the Service of artistic and historical properties at the Istituto Superiore per la Conservazione ed il Restauro (ISCR) and former Special Advisor to the Director-General of ICCROM, died on Tuesday 30 July.

Born in 1942 in Castelveltrano, Sicily, Basile obtained his first degree in art history in 1964 at the University of Palermo under the guidance of Prof Cesare Brandi, and a second degree in 1967 at the School for Advanced Studies in Art History, Sapienza University of Rome, at that time directed by Prof Giulio Carlo Argan.

As Director, Giuseppe Basile coordinated and supervised the most important conservation and restoration works on behalf of the ISCR, part of the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage.

Basile’s career took many directions. As teacher at ISCR from 1976, as well as at the School of Specialization in Art History, Sapienza, he cared for and with deep affection fostered the careers of many generations of restoration students, thereby having an important influence on restoration practice in Italy and abroad. As author and restoration theorist, Basile tirelessly penned essays and books proposing and refining methodologies, interpreting and developing the ideas of his mentor Cesare Brandi, always with practical applications for the restoration profession. Basile further encouraged and promoted the translation of Brandi’s work Teoria del restauro (Theory of Restoration) into multiple languages, thereby stimulating the flow of Brandi’s ideas into a worldwide dialogue on restoration.

As organizer and director of restoration works, Basile was involved in many highly visible restoration projects. Some of the most famous were the reconstruction of the collapsed cupola of the Upper Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi and the recomposition of the Giotto mural paintings after their partial destruction by earthquake in 1997; the restoration of works by Giotto and Giovanni Pisano at the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua; the restoration of mural paintings and stuccoes by Giulio Romano at the Palazzo Te in Mantua; and the restoration and cleaning of the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, on which he collaborated as scientific consultant.

Prof Basile’s colleagues at the Institute, to whom he was known as Pippo, can attest to his unflagging energies, which were particularly directed to his students, whether from ISCR or Sapienza. He spurred and encouraged an open, continuous debate with restorers and scientific experts, an exchange of often conflicting views essential to the life of the Institute. Basile’s constant and significant engagements abroad, in Japan, China and South America, are also worthy of mention.

Basile’s strong connections with ICCROM grew out of the close relationship ICCROM has always enjoyed with the ISCR. His support was instrumental in the preparatory phase (2002) of the Sharing Conservation Decisions course, in which ICCROM collaborated with the ISCR and other partners including the Opificio delle Pietre Dure and the Centro Conservazione e Restauro La Venaria Reale in Italy and the French Institut national du patrimoine – Département des restaurateurs. A frequent visitor to ICCROM, Basile was particularly interested in the contributions of past ICCROM Director-General Paul Philippot toward the development of the mural painting restoration practices taught at the ISCR. His study culminated in a volume published by Provenzani Editore, Palermo in 2012 (L'Istituto Centrale del Restauro : la sua organizzazione e le sue posizioni riguardo ai principali problemi del restauro dei dipinti di Paul Philippot, a cura di Giuseppe Basile).

In addition to his collaboration with ICCROM, Prof Basile also worked in close collaboration with the Cesare Brandi Association and with the Secco Suardo Association, with whom he helped spur the development of the ASRI – Historical Archive and Data Bank of Italian Restorers, along with numerous other projects and collaborations. This dedication towards the end of his life, that of working to preserve the archives of prominent restorers, led also to his founding the AISAR – Archivio Internazionale per la Storia e l'Attualità del Restauro - Cesare Brandi in Palermo, to which he has bequeathed his personal restoration library.

Prof Basile will be remembered for his strong and committed personality, his affection for his students, and his tireless and philosophically grounded efforts to conserve the traces of Italy’s magnificent artistic past.

Rosalia Varoli-Piazza and Paul Arenson

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