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Galerie d'Hercule © Photo Geoffroy Moufflet Archives du Palais de Monaco

Hidden from sight, 600 square metres of Italian Renaissance frescoes have been discovered in the Palace of Monaco since 2013.

A true national treasure was discovered almost by accident following the renovation of the facades surrounding the Royal Courtyard of the Prince’s Palace in Monaco in 2013. Perched on scaffolding under the Hercules Gallery, from the moment the work began, the painters had a feeling that there was some ancient decoration hidden beneath the accumulated layers of paint. Their intuition was confirmed when, after being scraped off with a scalpel, the top layers of paint and varnish disappeared to reveal stunning, vibrant, bold colours… Analysis then showed that the medium was a lime-based plaster used in fresco art dating from the Italian Renaissance.

The discovery hinted that within the Palace itself, there could be other historical frescoes hidden by paintings or false ceilings. Proof of this came in 2016, in what was then known as the Matignon Room: while an electrician was drilling a hole in a corner of the ceiling, a fragment of plaster came away. Investigations uncovered a medallion depicting the abduction of Europa by Jupiter, who had taken on the appearance of a bull, as well as a series of ‘grotesques’, or part-human, part-animal characters.

In the Throne Room, a fresco depicting Ulysses and the Nekyia episode, a depiction of the zodiac, was revealed.

Fresque de l’enlèvement d’Europe - Chambre d’Europe © Photo Maël Voyer Gadin, Palais princier de Monaco
Fresque originale du plafond de la salle du Trône, scène centrale. Épisode de la Nekuia d’Ulysse © Maël Voyer Gadin / Palais Princier de Monaco

A total of 600 square metres of Italian Renaissance frescoes have been revealed within the Prince’s Palace. The discovery resonates particularly with the history of the Principality and the great myths that have shaped its culture, and that of the wider Western world. Legend has it that it was Hercules who created Monaco’s rock and port. Returning from Greece via the Mediterranean, he is said to have arrived on the rocky Ligurian coast. To open up his path, he broke the mountain and created Monaco’s rock – the Rocher. In ancient times, the future Port of Monaco was dedicated to him…

Following the discovery of the incredible heritage represented by these frescoes, H.S.H. Prince Albert II decided that they should be restored, using particularly respectful techniques which have made the project a genuine laboratory. Artistry, scientific techniques, analysis of materials, research into pigments and the composition of media, and historical study… As the work has progressed, the methods used have been perfected, under the supervision of an advisory scientific committee. The teams are now able to draw on a sustainable approach to restoration, which is mindful of the art, resources and the environment.

Salle du Trône - Travail de restauration de la fresque représentant l'épisode de la Nekuia d'Ulysse © Photo Conservation-restauration Fresques - Palais princier de Monaco
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