Luxury Brands Give Historical Landmarks a Makeover
Historical landmarks across Europe get some TLC from luxury’s biggest names.
Once upon a time, a young Gabrielle Chanel lost the love of her life. Boy Capel died in an accident two days before Christmas. The year: 1919. With the loss of the man who had supported her emotionally and financially through the opening of her first boutique, she travelled to the City of Love for the first time, taking refuge in Venice’s churches, museums, palaces and narrow streets where she discovered a life renewed as a true Leo would, with courage and independence.
What might have been a passing coincidence became true mark of destiny, as Chanel’s kinship with the lion — the sign of Leo, the sign of Venice — thus began. Inspiration came to life in the form of an emblem in her creations to decorate the buttons adorning her suits. The lions were present on the clasps of her handbags. The link between the two is stronger than ever with Chanel Sous le Signe du Lion jewellery collections.
A little less than a century later, her legacy continues with the maison’s sponsorship of the restoration of the iconic winged lion and gold-studded blue mosaic of Saint Mark’s Basilica. Restoration work that began in December 2013 was finally completed earlier this year.
The lion’s gilding had faded due to oxidation. Cleaned, sanded, and covered in three layers of gold before a protective wax coating was applied in an undertaking that took 1,300 hours. A second team of restorers tackled the mosaic, which had been eaten away by pollution and salty air from Venice’s saltwater lagoon. The challenge was to preserve as much of the original as possible. Many of the damaged pieces were taken to a specialised workshop to be restored, and as many as 600 blue and 200 golden tesserae tiles were replaced by four craftsmen over 32 weeks.
This project is just one part of the extensive restorations helmed by the French Committee for the Safeguarding of Venice. Thanks to private patronage from the likes of Chanel, the committee has restored Venice’s The Royal Palace, Piazza San Marco and doubled the size of the Correr Museum over the last 16 years. Gabrielle Chanel would be proud.
To Be Continued
Each year, millions of visitors flock to make a wish with the toss of a coin into the largest Baroque fountain in Rome, the city in which the fashion house Fendi was born. While some repair work was done in the ’90s, parts of the decorative cornice have crumbled the last few years due to a lack of regular maintenance and shortage of funding. Fendi underwrote the €2.2m, 17-month facelift of the 18th-century Trevi Fountain which began in 2013.
Last November, the fountain was unveiled with not only a fresh facade, but also the installation of over 100 LED lights and a transparent suspended walkway so visitors can get up close to the historic monument. The project is part of the Fendi For Fountains philanthropic commitment to preserving Rome’s Four Fountains, with restoration and preservation work lined up for the Gianicolo, Mosè del Ninfeo del Pincio and del Peschiera fountains this year.
€25m may be a small fortune to Tod’s owner Diego Della Valle, but it is everything to the much-needed renovation of the Colosseum in Rome. Earthquakes, heavy vehicular traffic, vibrations from the subway and pillaging have seen with the crumbling of the ancient masonry from the world’s largest amphitheatre, once famed for gladiator fights and public executions by wild animals prior to the medieval times two millennia ago. The three-year restoration mission that began in late 2013 includes the strengthening of the overall structure, rework of the internal area and underground cells beneath the arena. In the meantime, the Colosseum is still open to public.
On its 130th anniversary in 2014, Bulgari celebrated its rich history by “adopting” one of Rome’s icons, the Spanish Steps, which are just a stone’s throw from founder Sotirio Bulgari’s first shop at 10 Via Condotti. Restoration work began last October, with the company dedicating €1.5m to the task that includes repairing spots worn out underfoot over the years and restoring the original lamps that dot the flights of stairs. Refurbishment of the 18th-century monument is expected to wrap this spring.
Following the successful restoration of the Louvre’s Louis XIV to Louis XVI rooms along with more than 2,000 French art masterpieces from the 18th century in 2014, Breguet was also the private sponsor backing the repurpose of the Hougoumont Farm as a war museum last year. The farm is one of the last surviving sites of the historic Battle of Waterloo (once a part of the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, Waterloo is now located in modern-day Belgium), which has been a symbol of peace and stability in Europe since the early 19th century. Incidentally, Napoleon and the Duke of Wellington, who led the French and Anglo-allied sides against each other in battle, were both fans of Abraham-Louis Breguet’s timepieces off the battlefield.