Pope Francis has formally appointed the Vatican Museums’ first female director, the art historian Barbara Jatta. The longstanding head of the Vatican Apostolic Library’s prints and drawings collection (Gabinetto delle Stampe) will take up the position on 1 January. After serving a six-month handover period as deputy director, she replaces the 77-year-old former Italian culture minister Antonio Paolucci, who has led the vast museums complex since 2007.
Born in Rome, Jatta worked as conservator and cataloguer for Italy’s Istituto Nazionale per la Grafica (national institute for graphic arts) from 1981 to 1996. She has been in charge of the Vatican Library’s works on paper since 1996, with responsibility for its exhibitions, acquisitions and archives. Jatta has also published extensively on the Vatican’s prints and drawings collections, including the first catalogue of drawings by Bernini and his school in 2015.
Her appointment anticipates the reopening of the Vatican Museums’ New Wing (Braccio Nuovo) on 22 December. Commissioned by Pope Pius VII, the 19th-century gallery was designed by the sculptor Antonio Canova to house the repatriated papal collections of classical sculpture, which had been plundered by Napoleon during his Italian campaign. The 68m-long marble corridor and its 150 statues have been under restoration since 2009 in a project spearheaded by Paolucci and funded by the Vatican City State and the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums.