Italian conservators at Matangireia

Māori and English are regularly spoken within Matangireia, the former Māori Affairs Committee Room at Parliament, but recently the sounds of Italian were also heard drifting through the room.

Conservators work on Matangireia with their backs to camera.
Giulia and Carolina work on the whare in Matangireia. Photo: Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taongaexpand/collapse

Specialist conservators Carolina Izzo and daughter Giulia Scott work on projects all over Aotearoa New Zealand. Both are passionate about their work. Carolina hails from Rome, and is fluent in Italian and English and speaks some Spanish and te reo Māori. She specialises in painting and in object conservation.

Working at Te Papa from 2002 until 2008 Carolina had some interesting opportunities including working on Māori art and on artworks which depict Māori, such as paintings by Lindauer. “All my years of working in Italy, then working at Te Papa was like going back to university.”

Before relocating here, Carolina says “I worked hard in Italy for 20 years – for the Ministry of Art, for churches and for Foreign Affairs, just 5 – 10% of my work was private. I worked on large fresco ceilings with up to 35 employees.”

Matangireia is very busy space with the conservation work nearing completion in time for its new reopening date of 17 September. Carolina says, “I get really excited to work on Māori art projects because there is so much weight and value in this work and it reminds me of my work in Italy.”

Carolina and Giulia focussed on the painted whare which covers most of the Southern wall of the room. While they worked, kaitiaki applied careful conservation techniques to tukutuku panels, whakairo, and the polishing of paua eyes. Carolina says, “It was nice to share the project with people from many different fields and we were fortunate to have Aroha Millar working with us on the painting conservation, it was very special to have her as part of our team.”

When asked about the most exciting projects they ever worked on Carolina replies “So many! But, in Naples there was the Christ sculpture in a church named Gesu Nuovo, also a theatre in Naples and one in Capris, where I worked in the Spring of 1984 looking after San Michele Arcangelo (St Michaels) and the home/museum of Dr Axel Munthe. When we finished our work there it became very popular with tourists.”

Carolina loved Capris, she remembers walking along a little narrow street “on one side there were little houses and on the other, a beautiful panorama.”

Giulia was born in Florence and is fluent in Italian and English. Educated in New Zealand she later trained at the same conservator school in Florence that Carolina had attended. They were even taught by the same science teacher. Giulia specialises in painting conservation.

Giulia says that her work is “mostly exciting, I worked on the Isaac theatre in Christchurch helping Carolina with the big, huge canvasses there. The whole process was fascinating, and Carolina developed a new way of bringing them down to be worked on.”

Of her work at Matangireia Giulia says “Matangireia is a spiritual place, you can feel it in the air.”

Niki Partsch

Giulia and Carolina smile in front of the ocean.
Conservators Giulia and Carolina in Capris. Photo supplied by Carolina Izzo.expand/collapse