Prince’s Palace reopens to reveal new hidden frescos under restoration

It is the latest stride in a decade-long marathon to restore the Prince’s Palace of Monaco to its former Renaissance glory.

Frescoes that were discovered hidden behind layers of paint in 2015 are almost all renewed.

A team of 40 restorers has been whittled down to 20, and they work meticulously now in the Throne Room, recreating frescos for generations to come.

Most of the restored Renaissance-era paintings were unveiled to the public in July 2022 before the Palace was closed again in September.

Now, from Sunday 2nd April, the public will once again be invited into the ‘Grand Apartments’ of the Grimaldi Palace for a tour that begins in the ‘Hercules Gallery’ overlooking the Palace Courtyard.

The Hercules Gallery at the Palais Princier in Monaco. Photo by Monaco Life
The Hercules Gallery at the Palais Princier in Monaco. Photo by Monaco Life

Hidden frescoes were uncovered in this 50-metre-long gallery two years after restoration works began in 2013. Experts believe they date back to the 16th century, during the Italian Renaissance. They suspect Genoese artists created the frescoes, which span around 600 square metres throughout the palace, based on the style of art and the type of lime-based plaster used.

The discovery places the Grimaldi family and the Palace of Monaco within a new historical context as a Renaissance palace.

A tour of the Grimaldi Palace

Built in 1197, the Palace of Monaco has been inhabited by the Grimaldi family ever since they overtook the fortress in 1297. Throughout the centuries, the Grimaldis expanded and updated the palace to keep up with the fashions of the time, a clue as to perhaps why these original frescoes were painted over.

On a press tour just days before the official opening, our guide explains how the original designs had been completely covered in the 19th century by Monegasque artist Philibert Florence and his team. Philibert was born into a family of Monegasque artists, and left for Rome in 1859 at age 20 to study drawing and painting with a grant provided by Prince Charles III. Upon his return to Monaco, he was commissioned to redo the frescoes at the palace.

Thankfully, many of these were painted on “plates” and positioned over the top of the original designs. Restorers have maintained the contrast in one of the scenes in the gallery: on the left, we see the less remarkable work of Philibert Florence which has been retouched many times over the years; on the right, the restored 16th century fresco which was originally created using watercolour on wet plaster to draw the pigments into the material and maintain its longevity.

hercules gallery contrast between old and new
The contrast between a 16th century restored fresco (right) and a 19th century painting positioned over the top (left). Photo by Monaco Life

“Here, you have a very clear indication of what is and what is not fresco,” explains our guide. “When you see fresco, you feel like light is streaming from the wall, you see a particular luminosity.”

In another fresco, our guide explains how they recreated a scene in which Hercules is holding Diomedes and feeding him to a mare. In order to paint Hercules as anatomically correct as possible, they used a live model – a man who works in the palace archives and who also happens to be an MMA fighter.

“He has the stature of Hercules, he is strong, but after an hour of holding one of the restorers in his arms, he begged us to stop,” laughs the guide. “However, if we didn’t position him like that, holding another man, we wouldn’t know how his legs would look in this scene. And that’s how we reproduced the human anatomy on plates like this.”

Like the Monegasque painters who came centuries before them, the restorers have positioned the plates on top of the original frescoes. Only this time, they are aeronautic plates: very thin and very resistant to the elements, with a thin gap to allow airflow.

palace fresco reveal
The 16th century fresco (left) looks nothing like the 19th century artwork that covers it (right). Photo by Monaco Life.

Frescoes in the Throne Room of the Prince’s Palace

The striking red Throne Room is where the final restoration works are being carried out amid official ceremonies that continue to take place here.

Perched on scaffolding high above the throne, a team of experts are scraping away the final elements of 19th century paintings that had been covering the 500-year-old frescoes that lie beneath. Most are a stark contrast to the original (see picture above).

In one corner, a laser is being used because solvents are just too harsh for many aspects of this work. In another corner, painters are using water colours based on pigments used in the 16th century, with a technique known as trattegio – painting in tiny parallel lines – so that they can be distinguished from the original works.

“The fundamental thing is to ensure that the restored works hold up over time and do not degrade prematurely,” reveals restorer Sophie Prévost.

The frescoes on the south-side are barely visible, while those on the northside are remarkably preserved.

Some of the frescos are in better condition than others. Photo by Monaco Life

The team behind the 21st century restoration

It is clearly a labour of love for these conservators-restorers. They sit in one position for hours, doing painstakingly minute and intricate work.

“The hardest part is maintaining our posture, particularly while working on the ceiling for long hours, and the pressure that it puts on our lower back and arms,” explains one restorer. “But we have regular access to therapy, and we love what we do.”

restorers work on frescos in the Prince's Palace
A dedicated team of conservators-restorers undertake painstaking work that will remain for generations to come. Photo by Monaco Life

They have come from all over the world – Italy, Germany, America, France and Holland – to be a part of one of the largest conservation-restoration projects ever seen in Europe.

“It’s a 10-year project, so it’s been difficult to maintain the team and the continuity,” says our guide. “But they are all attracted by the palace and by the project.”

This vast conservation and restoration project is due to be completed by the end of 2025, provided they don’t come across any new discoveries. But this is a very real possibility, because the underlying secrets of the last three rooms in the “old quarter” are still yet to be explored.


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Football: Monaco prevail in seven-goal thriller

AS Monaco’s academy products were decisive in a thrilling victory against Strasbourg (4-3) on Sunday, which brings Philippe Clement’s side within three points of second place.

Marseille’s draw against Montpellier on Friday opened the door for Les Monégasques to close the gap, and they looked like comfortably taking their opportunity in the opening exchanges.

Vanderson, in for Krépin Diatta, who was struggling with a niggle, was a livewire on the right, and got a deserved goal midway through the first half. However, in the wake of the opening goal, Monaco’s intensity dropped, and they were punished by Strasbourg with two quick-fire goals.

Photo by Monaco Life

Clement’s side’s aerial frailties were once again on show as Lebo Mothiba equalised before Guillermo Maripán headed into his own net four minutes later. Monaco went off to boos, and once back in the dressing room, Clement made the substitution that changed the course of the match.

La Diagonale shines

Edan Diop came on for Ruben Aguilar, and unlike in recent appearances, he featured in his more accustomed midfield role. Alongside Vanderson, he brought an increased attacking momentum, and within 10 minutes Monaco were level thanks to Eliesse Ben Seghir.

He made way immediately after, but Diop, another product of the club’s prestigious La Diagonale academy, scored his first professional goal just minutes later with a composed one-on-one finish.

Strasbourg had looked dangerous with long balls in behind during the first period, but that danger dissipated in the second half, and it was instead Monaco who scored the next goal in this seven-goal thriller.

Youssouf Fofana, against his former side, created a two-goal cushion with a deflected finish, which seemed to put the game to bed. It may have if Fofana didn’t get sent off just minutes later.

Strasbourg didn’t immediately profit from Monaco’s misfortune, but they did get a goal back through Habib Diallo in stoppage time to set up a nervy finish. Ultimately, Monaco held on, and move within three points of Lens and Marseille, who occupy the final two podium places.

A two-faced Monaco team

Post-match Clement lamented his side’s drop-off in intensity midway through the first half. “It was a Monaco with two faces. We began the game well first 25 minutes. We dominated and scored the first goal, we were well-organised and strong in the duels, but that dissipated, and that aggressivity dropped off,” he began.

Photo of academy products Chrislain Matsima, Eliot Matazo and Edan Diop by Monaco Life

“I was very angry at half-time because I didn’t recognise my team in the last 15 minutes, but I was very happy with their reaction. We need to stay aggressive all the time. That was the big lesson to take from this match. It is good to take lessons when you take the three points as well,” continued Clement.

Monaco finished with an average age of 23.5 years old, with Clement once again affirming that “youth is the face of the project.” With two 18-year-olds ultimately proving match winners on Sunday, youth forms part of Monaco’s present, just as much as their future. ultimately Monaco’s match winners


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Photo by AS Monaco

Formula 1: Max Verstappen wins eventful Australian GP, Charles Leclerc retires

Max Verstappen secured his second win in the opening three races despite three red flags and late drama at the Australian Grand Prix on Sunday, whilst Charles Leclerc’s “disastrous” start to the season continued after a first-lap spin. 

The Red Bull remains unrivalled. The much-anticipated return of the Australian Grand Prix, which hasn’t taken place since 2019, quickly turned into a procession for a large period before two late red flags created chaos.

An uncharacteristically cagey Verstappen was overtaken by George Russell into turn one, and the latter’s teammate then made his move down the inside into turn three to relegate the World Champion to third place.

“Certainly not the start to the season I was hoping for.”

However, racing was brought to a halt due to a stranded Leclerc. The Monégasque driver misread the situation at turn three and turned into a Lance Stroll, who had teammate Fernando Alonso on his inside. That sent his Ferrari into the gravel trap, from which he couldn’t escape.

Leclerc has cut a frustrated figure throughout the weekend, and for the second time in three races, it ended in a DNF. “This can’t happen too often. The start of the season has just been disastrous. The retirement in Bahrain, the penalty in Jeddah and now a DNF. It certainly hasn’t been the start to the season I was hoping for,” said the stricken Ferrari driver.

George Rusell and Carlos Sainz caught out

When racing did resume on lap four, Verstappen immediately set about returning to the front of the pack, and as has been the case throughout the season, he had the pace over his competitors. However, before he could refind his rhythm and make the move, the race was halted again.

Alex Albon spun into the barriers, initially bringing out the safety car. Russell and Leclerc’s teammate Carlos Sainz took the chance to pit for fresh tyres and dropped to 7th and 11th respectively. However, disaster struck for both, as those waved yellows turned red, stopping the race entirely and allowing all of their rivals a free stop.

Photo from Scuderia Ferrari press office

When the race got back underway with a standing start, Russell and Sainz had slipped down the field, and Hamilton cut an isolated figure in his futile fight to fend off Verstappen.

The pivotal move was made in the most mundane of fashions, the Dutchman breezing past the helpless Hamilton with the help of DRS on lap 12. Russell’s afternoon would get worse. After working his way back up to fourth, his car burst into flames, and he, therefore, became the third retiree of the race.

Max Verstappen breezing to victory, until…

The action abated for a large period. Despite some interesting battles in the midfield and the rise of Sergio Perez from the back of the grid to seventh, there was no action up front.

Verstappen constructed a comfortable gap to Hamilton, who maintained a gap of over a second to third-placed Fernando Alonso until the late drama. The frontrunners were coasting towards the chequered flag, but a lapse of concentration from Kevin Magnussen brought out the red flag with three laps remaining. There would therefore be a third restart.

A series of incidents at turn one, two and three, which saw the Alpines of Esteban Ocon and Pierre Gasly collide and retire caused another stoppage. There would be no fourth standing restart. The drivers were led around the course in Albert Park in a processionary manner, but crucially, in the order in which they lined up for the third restart as the red flag was waved before all the drivers had passed sector one. Alonso, spun by compatriot Sainz was the major benefactor of that decision as he retook his place on the podium, with the latter receiving a five-second penalty.

Ferrari’s disastrous weekend, therefore, ended with further disappointment as Sainz dropped from fourth to twelfth due to his penalty. An underwhelming end to an exciting race that ultimately had a rather predictable outcome.

The task for the entire grid is to close the gap to Red Bull, and they’ll have time to do it, with the next race in four weeks’ time in Azerbaijan.


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Photo from Scuderia Ferrari press office