Lampadario liberty

Il restauro a Casa Garibaldi a Istambul

Inaugurata nel 2015 dopo un lungo restauro la Casa Garibaldi di Istambul, sede storica della Società Operaia di Mutuo Soccorso. I lavori, supportati dall’Ambasciata italiana, hanno visto anche la partecipazione di un socio di Assorestauro, Reale Restauri, che si è occupata del delicato intervento su un lampadario liberty. Il restauro, che riguarda un manufatto metallico di pregio artistico, viene presentato di seguito in una relazione descrittiva delle modalità operative.


It is not well known that Giuseppe Garibaldi lived in Istanbul for three years (between 1828 and 1831). He arrived at the harbour as a sailor to spend a very limited time, but he felt at home among the thousands of fellow Italians in the highly Westernized neighbourhood of Pera (currently Beyoğlu district).1
Even after he left the city forever, his ideas survived, and in 1863, just two years after Italy’s unification, when the local Italian community formed by immigrants (some of them may have met him personally during his stay) founded an association, they invited Garibaldi to preside over it.

His written reply by an autograph letter was positive, and he became the president of the Società Operaia di Mutuo Soccorso (Workers Society of Mutual Aid) in Constantinople.
Till today, the building that hosts the headquarters of the association is known as the Garibaldi building, with reference also to the memorial plaque that bears his name.

The Society is only one of the thousands of Italian workers’ associations worldwide, but it is a unique example in Turkey.
Little is known about the association’s initial years: the founders met regularly, but probably in temporary settings. They did not have a stable address. After the first year, they started keeping books of meeting minutes. All of these handwritten volumes are still in good condition and fully legible. This gives good hope that much more will very soon indeed be discovered about the history of Istanbul’s Italians.
The members, at first, rented apartments for their offices and finally in 1884 bought three wooden houses on a total of 200 sq m of land, where (after demolishing the houses) they built a two-floor edifice. This building, which consisted of a ground floor club and a theatre on the upper floor, was inaugurated in 1885.
After a short period, with hundreds of new members, the association required a larger building, and the search for new property or a new building became one of the major concerns of the board of administrators. After two decades, following several attempts but no positive results at all, Mr. Enrico Santoro’s huge inheritance gave the Society a chance to add a floor to the building. Due to this renovation (1908–1909), the building was transformed into a bigger and more welcoming building for the increasing number of new members.2

The former building, which was established on three floors, a basement and the theatre, was restored in 1909/1910 by the architects Giulio Mongeri and Edoardo De’ Nari, in its actual aspect, creating a bigger theatre, a mezzanine floor and an attic instead of the former terrace. After the Second World War, the activities of the Society were reduced, and the building started to be used for private parties and the annual celebration of Giuseppe Garibaldi. During the last few decades, the building has been transformed several times and used for different functions. The formal aspect of the building designed by Mongeri and De Nari is now recalled, particularly by the iron artworks and chandeliers, which are still preserved in the building despite several changes and tampering that occurred from 1980 to the present.

During the first construction phase (1884–85), some of the members, namely Mr. Di Angelo, Mr. Gallerini, Mr. Dionigi and Mr. Molinari, were responsible only for purveying the iron construction materials, which were partially obtained locally from the Hazezian Company. The rest of the construction materials were imported from Belgium and were slightly more expensive. The need to import the major iron profiles (12 tons in total) took a long time to deliver from abroad, which clearly delayed the construction. The railings, in contrast, were easily produced locally.3

For the second construction phase (reopened in January 1910), the individual responsible for the renovation process (Mr. Edoardo de Nari) was an engineer rather than an architect. This led to an even higher amount of iron usage for the now much taller (and therefore much heavier) building.
During this second phase, in addition to the construction metals, much more metal was used, especially for the railings and the lighting, which consisted mainly of gas chandeliers and appliques, which were later readapted to electricity.

After a period of serious decay due to the diminishing number of Italians and especially Italian workers in Turkey during the last decades, upon request by the Italian Consul General, Mr. Gianluca Alberini, in 2012, the Association of Turkish Travel Agencies (TÜRSAB) started a thorough restoration process with the purpose of re-establishing the formal assets of the building that were created after the first restoration, in 1909.

A specific aspect of the restoration process, the interventions to an ‘original’ chandelier, will be described below.

This paper aims to give special emphasis to this particular aspect of the ongoing restoration process. The iron artworks and the chandeliers can recount the stylistic history of the former restoration project that represents the start of the philological restoration that is currently underway.
The case of the restoration of the ‘original’ end of ‘800, iron, bronze and antimony chandelier, which illuminated the main hall of the theatre, is presented through its restoration process.
The chandelier, previously fed by a gas system, was converted to electricity in the early 1920s, which shifted the direction of the light source from above to below and changed the anchoring system of the opaline white diffusion globes.

This change dramatically altered the appearance of the chandelier and its lighting effect. Additionally, in the same period, the finishing layers were changed into fake golden leaves covering a porporina painting in the tone of oro ducato.
The restoration aimed to recreate the original lighting effect, returning the lighting sources to their former position and accurately removing the recent layers of paint to recreate the former golden effect.

The chandelier, in a pure liberty style, is composed of five dorsals (tiranche) with five lamps each, for a total of 20 light spots.
A preliminary examination consisting of visual analyses, inspections and tests was conducted to better understand the stratigraphy, the assembly scheme and the changes introduced by the restoration that was conducted in the 1920s. This preliminary inspection made it possible to overcome almost entirely the lack of documentation concerning this restoration. The results were discussed with the site manager, and the restoration process was settled. Upon opening the central body of the chandelier, the restorers found traces of fake gold leaves, which led them to understand what the former coating had looked like, before the re-adaptation in the 1920s. These leaves had been confirmed by a stratigraphic analysis of the coating. Three different layers of gilt were found on the surface of the leaves, which were related to three different periods of time, and a thin layer of semi-transparent varnish had been used to cover the whole surface to protect and level out the colour effect with a ‘taste of antique’.
The original lights of the chandelier were powered by a gas plant built with a system of bronze pipes, taps and fittings. The taps were severely damaged during the conversion to electricity to create easy passages for the new electric cables.
The method used during the restoration of the 1920s was based on a functional re-adaptation of the chandelier to the new electric power, without any reference to conservative and reversible techniques or any consideration for preserving the gas plant mechanisms. In certain cases, however, the new cables were positioned on the external surface, which were visible from outside. This is probably because it was an easier way to connect the lamps, rather than a conservative approach to better preserve the chandelier’s structure.

The first step in restoring the chandelier was to conduct an accurate photographic survey during the disassembly phases and to catalogue all the pieces that were dismantled. All this data were archived and reported to the site manager to assist him while performing the restoration.
During the disassembly and cleaning phases, it was noted that several antimony metal parts were severely damaged and broken. The broken antimony parts have been welded with tin and repaired for structural and aesthetic purposes.

After the preliminary tests, the cleaning procedures were mainly conducted with scalpels and micro milling machines. The use of chemicals was limited to the final removal of cleaning residual and to passivating the surface with a nitro-based solvent. Finally, before the new coating was applied, all the missing parts, which had been damaged during use and the past restorations, were pointed and repaired with epoxy putty: new adequate passages for the cables were verified, marked and created where strictly necessary to hide the new electrical plant, maintaining the prevailing conservative approach and keeping any new changes and damage to a minimum.

The new coating was realised with a first layer of a yellow ochre fixative to prepare the surface for the final gilding procedure. The fake gold leaves had been stuck to the surface with a red missione oleosa (porporina) old gold size. The final protective coating was conducted with a protective bituminous wax.

The final aspect of the chandelier, according to its philological purpose, was a renewed metal precious artwork, which can be ostensibly referred to as the asset of the former chandelier. The electrical plant was maintained, respecting the old gas plant and recreating the original illumination asset.

Sedat Bornovali_Casa Garibaldi Istanbul,
Andrea Griletto_Assorestauro,
Francesco Panaciulli_Reale Restauro,




1. Annita Garibaldi Jallet, Gli anni di Costantinopoli nel mito di Garibaldi (1822-1834), Gli Italiani a Istanbul, ed. Attilio de Gasperis, Roberta Ferrazza, Torino, 2007, p. 58.
2. Paolo Girardelli, The Renovation of the Società Operaia Italiana di Mutuo Soccorso (SOI) in İstanbul (1908-1910), Beyoğlu, The Architect of Changing Times Edoardo de Nari (1874-1954), ed. Baha Tanman, İstanbul, 2012, p. 122.
3. Esra Yeteroğlu, Società Operaia Italiana di Istanbul Binası Restorasyon Projesi, Master’s Thesis, Istanbul Technical University, Istanbul, 2015, p. 121

Girardelli, P., The Renovation of the Società Operaia Italiana di Mutuo Soccorso (SOI) in İstanbul (1908-1910), Beyoğlu, The Architect of Changing Times Edoardo de Nari (1874-1954), ed. Baha Tanman, İstanbul, 2012.
Jallet, Garibaldi A., Gli anni di Costantinopoli nel mito di Garibaldi (1822-1834), Gli Italiani a Istanbul, ed. Attilio de Gasperis, Roberta Ferrazza, Torino, 2007.
Yeteroğlu, E., Società Operaia Italiana di Istanbul Binası Restorasyon Projesi, Master’s Thesis, Istanbul Technical University, Istanbul, 2015


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