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Pasquale Rotondi ( 1909 - 1991 )

Pasquale Rotondi was born in Arpino (Frosinone) in 1909. After taking his degree in History of Art, in 1939 he became Superintendent of Fine Art for the Marche region. With the commencement of the Allied bombing of Italy, Rotondi was instructed by the General Director of Fine Arts to arrange for the most important works of art across Italy to be removed from the city centers and hidden in safe places. Soon, paintings, sculptures, pieces of ecclesiastical furnishings, ceramics, glassware, medals, tapestries and carpets as well as manuscripts, archives and music score from the churches, galleries and archives of Venice, Milan and Rome, along with many other Italian towns, came flocking towards the Marche region and stored in the rooms of the fifteenth-century Fortress of Sassocorvaro and in the Palazzo of the Princes of Carpegna. By the end of summer 1944 Rotondi was safeguarding some thirty-eight hundred works of art and four thousand priceless archival documents.

The Allied landing at Salerno, however, presented a new challenge: to protect the art from a ground war. The great collections had to be relocated to the only place in Italy that offered any lasting hope of safety: the neutral Vatican City. Between December 1943 and May 1944, Pasquale Rotondi, helped by Emilio Lavagnino, Central Inspector for the General Direction of the Arts before being forced into retirement in January 1944, and a few other dedicated men travelled back and forth from Rome, relocating most of the art inside the safe walls of the Vatican. After the war, by May 1946, all of the works of art saved by Rotondi were back where they belonged.

After the war, Rotondi moved to Genoa, becoming its Art Superintendent and contributing to the rebuilding of the city from the destruction caused by the war. In 1961 he became Director of the Istituto Centrale di Restauro (Central Restoration Institute) in Rome, but in 1973 he was appointed as the expert consultant to the restoration works of Michelangelo’s frescoes in the Sistine Chapel. In 1986 he was given the honorary citizenship of the city of Urbino. Rotondi died in Rome in 1991, run over by a large motorbike. He was 81 years old. In 1997 the Pasquale Rotondi Award (Premio Pasquale Rotondi) was established to honor those who, through their actions, have saved or contributed to saving important artistic works.