Project Specialist, Conservation

Conservation image

Born in Florence, Italy, Francesca Piqué grew up in a 16th-century villa that has been in her mother's family since 1759. Living in these historic surroundings and having parents with a strong appreciation for art no doubt helped shape her early interest in conservation. She recalls at the age of 16 watching a family friend, noted Italian conservation scientist Giorgio Torraca, working in the Cathedral of Torcello, Venice, and thinking that this was the sort of work she wished to do.

After Francesca completed high school, following Torraca's advice, she began studies in chemistry as the basis for a career in conservation science, and she searched for hands-on conservation training as well. While attending the University of Florence, she researched wall painting techniques in the laboratory of Leonetto Tintori, a renowned wall paintings conservator. In 1988, through Tintori, she learned of the three-year postgraduate wall paintings conservation course offered at the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London, which was at the time co-organized along with the GCI. It was at the Courtauld that she met Sharon Cather, who, with Torraca, remains a mentor. As part of her Courtauld studies, Francesca did fieldwork at several sites in England, as well as in Florence under the supervision of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure.

Francesca graduated from the Courtauld in 1991 and simultaneously received her degree in physical chemistry. The following year she earned a master's degree in science for conservation from the Courtauld, the result of work she did at the Yungang grottoes in China during a 10-month internship with the GCI Scientific department. In 1993 she joined the GCI as a research fellow in Special Projects. Her first assignment was research on the tomb of Tutankhamun. She went on to a documentation, conservation, and training project with the government of Benin involving earthen bas-reliefs at the Royal Palaces of Abomey. She also worked as a member of the team on the conservation of the hominid trackway in Laetoli, Tanzania, and on the conservation of The Last Judgment mosaic in Prague. She has been a permanent staff member since 1996. She is currently part of the Institute's projects on China's Mogao grottoes and on the conservation of mosaics in situ. In the future, she hopes to combine more time for scientific research with her fieldwork.