Generous Support from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation Allows Conservation Team to X-Ray “Triumph of David”

We are most pleased to announce that, in May 2014, the project Conserving a Giant: Resurrecting Pietro da Cortona’s “Triumph of David” was awarded a substantial grant from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation. These funds will be utilized in a number of ways, to help both produce and disseminate further information knowledge about Villanova University’s large canvas – and no doubt about seventeenth-century Italian painting more broadly – to in a number of arenas and in a variety of audiences, both general and academic. 

The Kress foundation praised the interdisciplinary nature of the project, which has involved thus far a number of department and offices at Villanova, and the participation of scholars and students of art conservation, chemistry, history, and art history. We are very happy that this support will be used to further specifically interdisciplinary investigations, and that it will continue to allow Villanova faculty to engage this painting in both teaching and research, with both undergraduate and graduate students, and with both the public at large and the wider academic community.  This grant will allow us to involve even more students, professors, and departments on campus, and it will enable us to develop further cooperation with art historians of Roman Baroque painting, art conservators, and scholars at institutions with connections to the painting and its donor. 

Most immediately, the Kress funding will allow for technicians from General Electric to perform X-radiography and other technical analysis on the gigantic canvas, and other early modern paintings in Villanova’s collection. Several large canvas paintings by Pietro da Cortona were examined using X-radiography during a technical study in 1997-8, revealing characteristic unique to the artist’s working method.  X-radiography of the Villanova painting will allow the conservation to establish a dialogue with other scholars and art historians who are more familiar with Pietro da Cortona as well as artists related to his circle.

With this grant, members of the Conserving a Giant conservation team and Falvey Library will collaborate with Villanova University’s Computing Sciences Department and with UNIT (the IT Department) to create a “webexhibit” exploring the Triumph of David. This website will enable members of the conservation team as well as chemistry and art history faculty and students to compile, organize, and share their research with a wider audience. The “webexhibit” will remain a permanent fixture on Villanova’s server, thus providing an attractive and interactive site for prospective students, outside scholars, and the general public, and moreover, serving chemistry and art history courses for years to come.

Funding from the Samuel H. Kress Foundation will allow members of the team at Villanova to travel to Rome in spring of 2015, to view a number of frescoes and canvas paintings by the artist, and by important members of his workshop, to gain further insights about his painting methods.  We will be meeting with art historians and conservators who have worked on seventeenth-century painting, to learn from them and, with what we have discovered through conservation and research undertaken at Villanova, to share our own experiences and knowledge. The grant, together with support from Villanova University, will additionally fund an international, interdisciplinary symposium investigating Pietro da Cortona’s workshop in seventeenth-century Rome. This symposium will involve a number of scholars and students from various fields who have contributed to the Conserving a Giant project, and we will be able to invite eminent scholars of Baroque painting. The symposium will serve as both a culmination to the multi-year conservation project, and at the same time a new beginning, with new knowledge and insights shared among and between established and emerging art historians, scientists, and conservators, and, indeed, with all of the Villanova community.    


– Tim McCall

Professor of Art History

Villanova University




Location, Location, Location

  • Posted by: Amanda Norbutus
  • Posted Date: November 11, 2013
  • Filed Under: Library

Falvey Memorial Library serves the four colleges of the Villanova University community. The Villanova School of Law has its own library. The University’s original library building, commonly referred to as Old Falvey or the Old Falvey wing of the Library, is actually Falvey Hall, a structure built in the 1940s. The newer library building, Falvey Memorial Library, was built in the 1960s. It sits adjacent to Falvey Hall aka Old Falvey, and the two buildings are intertwined, but do not communicate very well with one another. The floors do not align for one thing, and for security purposes the public needs to exit the one building to enter the other.

Old Falvey

One of the greatest features of Falvey Hall, which has its collegiate gothic façade facing the Mendel Green, is a high ceilinged reading room. After the new library building was opened, the reading room in Old Falvey served several purposes. The large painting on canvas donated to the University in the 1950s was mounted in the reading room probably because it was a large enough space to accommodate the 12×19’framed oil painting. Unfortunately when the reading room stopped being used for public functions, the painting went generally unseen. The conservation campaign now underway is an exciting venture to restore the painting, and reopening the reading room to the public means visitors can see the painting while conservation takes place. Unlocking the reading room is also a way for Falvey to add additional 24/7 study space for Villanova students.  A major next step is to find funding for refurbishing the reading room not only to upgrade the environment for student use, but in order to create a more fitting and hospitable location for the Cortona painting.

A Learning Commons in Falvey was dedicated in February of 2012. This revitalization of Falvey’s second floor was a significant step forward in the overall renovation of the Library. It is a part of a larger plan to renovate the entire Falvey complex. The renovation and refurbishment of the reading room will be another major step. The ultimate step is to establish an atrium that would be cut from the Old Falvey book stacks and would connect the reading room in Falvey Hall to the main part of Falvey Memorial Library in a dramatic and grand way. The hope is that the Learning Commons will have an entrance and staircase into the reading room and that the reading room will be open to the atrium. The Cortona painting will remain in the reading room and perhaps, if they too can be restored, the other paintings donated to the University by Princess Eugenia Ruspoli could hang salon style alongside the “Triumph of David.” These plans are all contingent on fundraising led by colleagues in University Advancement.

Blueprints - Falvey

In fact, transforming Falvey into a 21st century Library facility is one of several priorities of the recently launched comprehensive campaign at the University. A timeless focus on the needs of the academic community of Villanova is at the core of Falvey Memorial Library. In the 21st century this includes providing spaces that allow the mind to think and the imagination to create – where the student can focus on her studies, information is transformed into knowledge, and library research is accomplished – while at the same time serving as a generative intellectual environment which includes inspirational spaces. The renewal of the classic reading room space, home to a truly awe inspiring work of 17th century art and which is connected in an integrated fashion with the Learning Commons as well as other traditional library functions, is to have a place at the heart of Villanova’s campus which embodies the engagement of the whole student, in mind, body, and spirit.

by Darren Poley, Interim Library Director


Last Modified: November 11, 2013