ITALIA ARCHEOLOGIA e RESTAURO ARCHITETTURA: Recreating Adam, From Hundreds of Fragments, After the Fall - the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, THE NEW YORK TIMES (8 November 2014) & The NYT (11 October 2002).

ITALIA ARCHEOLOGIA e RESTAURO ARCHITETTURA: Recreating Adam, From Hundreds of Fragments, After the Fall – the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, THE NEW YORK TIMES (8 November 2014) & The NYT (11 October 2002).


Nota: L’Adamo di Tullio Lombardo torna visibile al MET – Era la sera dell’8 ottobre 2002 quando il piedistallo che reggeva la statua di Adamo dello scultore italiano Tullio Lombardo, maestro rinascimentale veneziano, si ruppe. E il marmo andò in pezzi. Torna visibile dall’11 novembre al Metropolitan Museum di New York dopo un restauro durato 12 anni. La statua era infatti molto compromessa. La caduta l’aveva rotta in centinaia di pezzi. ARTLIFE.COM (11|11|214)


It happened at 6 on a Sunday night (= Met’s 15th-Century ‘Adam’ Shatters as Pedestal Collapses, The NYT [08 Oct. 2002]). Adam — a strapping, 6-foot-3-inch marble sculpture by the Venetian Renaissance master Tullio Lombardo — fell to the ground on a patio at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, smashing into hundreds of pieces. “Nobody knew what had happened — it could have been foul play,” said Jack Soultanian, a conservator who was called to the museum that night in 2002.

An investigation revealed that Adam’s plywood pedestal had buckled. “The head had come off,” Mr. Soultanian said. “There were 28 recognizable pieces and hundreds of smaller fragments,” he added, and skid marks on the torso where it slid across the patio floor. Philippe de Montebello, then the Met’s director, called it “about the worst thing that could happen” to a museum.

What followed was more than a decade of painstaking restoration that was unprecedented in the Met’s history. The project took so long there were rumors that the statue was beyond repair. But it was not, as the Met will make clear on Tuesday when the museum not only puts Adam on display again but also releases videos of how Mr. Soultanian and his colleague Carolyn Riccardelli — with dozens of scientists and engineers — put the 500-year-old sculpture back together, relying on a radical approach to the conservation. Along the way, it made a visit to the hospital for CT scans. (Adam needed a nose job, as well as head, hand, knee and foot operations.)

The restoration project serves as a watershed of sorts for the Met, reflecting a new attitude adopted by museums around the world to share such innovative work not just professionally but with the public. It is a dramatic reversal from decades past when museum conservators treated such efforts like state secrets, or subscribed to the belief that revealing a work’s history of damage would make it less beautiful to viewers. (Michele Marincola, a professor of conservation at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts, recalled that the legendary conservator George L. Stout once compared discussing such restoration work to inquiring “about the digestive system of an opera singer.” )

But today, “restoration is the cutting edge of art history,” said Emilie Gordenker, director of the Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis in The Hague, whose museum is also planning a major exhibition centering on an in-depth restoration of a single painting, “Saul and David,” which she described as riveting as a “crime scene investigation.” Using the latest technology, the museum will chronicle the discoveries of its creation and history — every unexpected detail that lurks beneath the canvas, initially considered to be one of Rembrandt’s finest but later de-attributed. “We live in a time when the public wants to look behind the scenes and museums are finally becoming more open about it,” Ms. Gordenker said.

Italy’s Uffizi Gallery in Florence, for example, had conservators working in a glassed-in lab so visitors could watch the action. Right now, in Belgium, Jan and Hubert van Eyck’s “Adoration of the Mystic Lamb,” better known as the Ghent Altarpiece of 1432 — one of the world’s most famous panel paintings — is undergoing a seven-year restoration. Financing from the Getty Foundation in Los Angeles has helped pay for it, including an interactive website showing the work in minute detail. (The public can also visit the three sites in Ghent where it is being restored.)

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“This is a shift and I think a very important one,” Luke Syson, the Met’s curator in charge of European sculpture and decorative arts, said of this new tell-all era. With Adam, he added, “there’s no pretending that the breaks aren’t there or that this didn’t happen. Yes, this awful accident occurred on our watch and now we are also responsible for its resurrection. Our processes need to be transparent.”

In decades past, museums would have also restored a damaged work of art in a way that got it back on view as quickly as possible. In the case of a massive marble sculpture like Adam, conservators would have resorted to using iron or steel pins that required drilling many of the sculpture’s joints. But such invasive work can be risky, curators said, potentially harming the marble.

Then there was the option, popular in the case of ancient sculptures, of leaving masterworks unrestored if they cracked with age, excavation or accidents — a process conservators often call “the romance of the fragment.” That was the case with the Louvre’s headless “Winged Victory of Samothrace” or its armless Aphrodite of Milos, better known as the Venus de Milo. “There was a trend in conservation to take away all restorations from ancient sculpture and get down to the original fragment,” said Ms. Riccardelli, the Met conservator who led the work on Adam. “But now we see the value of a Renaissance restoration.”

Nobody at the Met thought that the process would take 12 years. But Mr. de Montebello said then, and reiterated in a recent interview, that he wanted Adam “brought back to a state where only the cognoscenti could tell anything had happened.”

“The aesthetic of Tullio is largely dependent on the high finish of the piece,” he said. “To leave it in a broken state would have been to choose its accident as its defining historical moment.”

The museum assembled a team of three conservators — Ms. Riccardelli, Mr. Soultanian and Michael Morris, who works independently — along with consulting scientists, engineers and curators. After Adam’s fall, conservators studied in depth how Tullio had created it — with a head of curly locks, a dreamy stare, leaning on a decorative tree trunk intertwined with a serpent and a grapevine. The sculpture, which dates from 1490-1495, was originally commissioned for the tomb of a Venetian doge, Andrea Vendramin, and entered the museum’s collection in 1936.

Using a laser-mapping technology to create a three-dimensional “virtual Adam,” the conservators and engineers were able to see the places within the sculpture that would bear the most stress when it was upright again. Fiberglass pins, an innovation in the field, tested best for weight-bearing and safety, and in the end only three — one in each ankle and one in his left knee — proved necessary to put Adam back together. Everything else could be reassembled using a newly developed, more pliable adhesive.

The last and final piece was the sculpture’s head, which was reattached on April 1, 2013. Since then the entire sculpture has been cleaned, with the holes where the marble had pulverized filled in and colored to match the original stone.

When Adam goes back on view, some experts say its accident will make it even more compelling to the public. “There’s the D.I.Y. factor,” Patricia Rubin, the director of the Institute of Fine Arts, said. “It’s something everyone can relate to. What happened to this sculpture is a quandary you face each time you drop a piece of china in your kitchen and see it smash on the floor.”

Correction: November 11, 2014 – An article on Sunday about the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s restoration of a shattered marble sculpture of Adam by the Venetian Renaissance master Tullio Lombardo misidentified which knee of the sculpture required a fiberglass pin. It was the left, not the right.

Fonte | source:

— Recreating Adam, From Hundreds of Fragments, After the Fall – the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, THE NEW YORK TIMES (8 November 2014).


— Met’s 15th-Century ‘Adam’ Shatters as Pedestal Collapses, THE NEW YORK TIMES (11 October 2002).

A 15th-century marble statue of Adam by the Venetian sculptor Tullio Lombardo crashed to the ground in the Velez Blanco Patio at the Metropolitan Museum of Art sometime Sunday evening, scattering its arms, legs and an ornamental tree trunk into dozens of pieces.

The statue’s fall — a museum’s nightmare — was confirmed yesterday morning by museum officials, who said they had delayed an announcement for a day while a preliminary investigation took place. The indoor patio, originally located in a castle in Spain, was screened off to the public yesterday as curators combed the tile floor for fragments. The museum barred news photographers from taking pictures, even from the balconies above.

Harold Holzer, the museum’s chief spokesman, said the museum has now tentatively concluded that the 6-foot-3-inch statue fell to the ground when one side of the 4-inch-high base of its pedestal apparently buckled, tipping over both the pedestal and statue.

”We are reasonably certain that it collapsed inexplicably but on its own,” Mr. Holzer said. The investigation is continuing, he added, but vandalism had been initially ruled out since there was no evidence of the statue itself having been struck or pushed.

Philippe de Montebello, director of the Metropolitan, described the statue’s collapse as a ”tragic fluke accident” and ”about the worst thing that could happen” to a museum. But he added that when the restoration was complete, the statue would return whole to its public. ”The figure will stand again on a solid pedestal, and frankly only the cognoscenti will know,” he said.

The smashed statue was discovered at 9 p.m. Sunday, three and a half hours after closing time. ”No one heard a crash,” Mr. Holzer said. ”A guard making a routine patrol saw the statue and the pedestal down and alerted his supervisor.” A conservator, Jack Soultanian Jr., was immediately summoned Sunday night.

Curators yesterday were still collecting and numbering the pieces of marble strewn on the patio floor, which was cordoned off by tape and string, much like a crime scene but without the police. Most of the pieces came from the statue’s arms and legs, as well as from the decorative tree trunk, intertwined with a serpent and a grapevine, on which the figure was leaning.

”Luckily, the head and the torso are the least damaged,” said James Draper, the Henry R. Kravis curator of European sculpture. ”The features of the face are legible, and suffered only minor losses, mostly scratches.”

Mr. Draper said that one leg was broken into six large pieces, but that other parts had been smashed into smaller bits. ”There was some pulverizing,” he said.

By midday yesterday Mr. Holzer said that the museum’s conservation staff was more hopeful about the chances of putting Adam back together. ”Our conservators believe that the prognosis for a good restoration are better than we had hoped,” he said. In an initial statement the museum said the restoration would require one to two years.

As the causes of the crash were being investigated, the museum inspected other pedestals, including those beneath the other six statues in the Velez Blanco Patio, among them another figure by Lombardo (1455-1532), known as the ”Young Warrior.”

The pedestal beneath the Adam was described as four feet high, and about two feet deep, made of medium density plywood, packed in layers but hollow inside. The bottom of the pedestal rested upon the square four-inch-high base, of which one side apparently gave way under pressure.

The statues in the patio were given new pedestals in May 2000 when the patio was reopened after a three-year renovation that involved laying antique tiles on the floor that better suited the stone balustrades and columns of the 16th-century patio. The patio, a bequest of George Blumenthal in 1941, was installed at the Met in 1964.

Dated 1490-95, the ”Adam,” which came to the museum in 1936, is considered a significant piece of Italian sculpture. It was originally made for the tomb of a Venetian doge, Andrea Vendramin.

”It is of incalculable historic importance,” Mr. Draper said. ”It is the first monumental nude of the Renaissance, which followed closely the idealism of ancient Roman antiquities.”

The statue and the tomb were initially located in the church Santa Maria dei Servi in Venice, but both were later moved to the church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo. Besides its strong classical references, the statue is noted for the purity of its marble, its smooth carving and its elegant hand, which held an apple, signifying temptation. The serpent and the grapevine on the tree trunk were allusions to the fall and redemption of man.

Photo: The Met says its marble ”Adam” by Tullio Lombardo will be whole again. (Metropolitan Museum of Art).

–Fonte | source:

The NYT (11 Oct. 2002).