Restorers Uncovered Stunning Renaissance-era Frescoes by Accident During Routine Repairs at the Prince’s Palace of Monaco

After being hidden for centuries, the frescoes are now on view at the newly-reopened attraction.

Restoration of the Galerie d'Hercule. © Photo Conservation-restauration Fresques - Palais princier de Monaco.

The Prince’s Palace of Monaco has just reopened to the public after a period of restoration, boasting a newly discovered series of frescoes that had been hidden from sight for centuries. 

The wall paintings had been left untouched and it is not known why they were originally covered up. They are believed to have been painted by Genoese artists during the 16th century. This is due both to the style of the works as well as the lime-based plaster used, detected during a multispectral analysis. 

“This discovery places the Grimaldi family and Palace of Monaco within a new art historical context as a Renaissance palace,” Said chief conservator-restorer Julia Greiner to Artnet News. “The discovery has ignited numerous research projects including conservation and sustainability which have been inspired through his sovereign highness, Prince Albert II’s interest and dedication to environmental issues. Furthermore it has brought together a pluridisciplinary team of approximately 40 specialists that have worked on this project for the last 8 years.”

Hercules’ tenth labour: the Cattle of Geryon in the Galerie d’Hercule. © Photo Maël Voyer Gadin – Palais princier de Monaco.

Restorers began routine repair work in 2013 but first realized there were new artistic treasures to uncover in 2015 when examining the lunettes and vaulted ceiling of a loggia in the courtyard. It had been repainted in the 19th century but images of Hercules’s twelve labors were found remaining underneath. 

The cleaning process revealed richly skilled renderings of these scenes, allegorical figures, and decorative elements totalling some 600 meters squared.

Frescoes have also come to light elsewhere in the palace. In the Chamber of Europe, previously named the Salon Matignon, an electrician accidentally began the process of uncovering a medallion painted on the ceiling that shows the mythological abduction of Europa by Jupiter. 

Ceiling of the Chambre Louis XIII mid-restoration. © Photo Maël Voyer Gadin – Palais princier de Monaco.

In 2020, a large scale fresco depicting Ulysses was also found in the Throne Room. 

The official residence of the Sovereign Prince of Monaco, the palace was built as a fortress in 1191. In the 700 years since 1297, it has been home to the Grimaldi family, currently Prince Albert II. 

An opening initially planned for April 2020 had to be delayed due to the pandemic. The palace and its trove of newly-discovered frescoes now remains open until October 15.

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