43rd Annual Meeting- General Session: Practical Philosophy, May 15th, “After the Fall: The Treatment of Tullio Lombardo's 'Adam' ”, Presented by Carolyn Riccardelli; Lawrence Becker, Michael Morris, Jack Soultanian, Ron Street, George Wheeler.

Image 1
Image 1: Major and Minor fragments

I have a confession….  I’ve had a secret crush on ‘Adam’ since I first started my graduate training at Buffalo State College back in 2005.   I first met Tullio Lombardo’s 1490-95 monumental Renaissance sculpture when I had just completed my first year of study.  I had heard of this major conservation project at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the ambitious Carolyn Riccardelli who had just been selected to take on what was in fact a monumental task.  On my way back to begin my second year of study, I stopped by the Met where Carolyn was kind enough to show me the 28 large pieces and hundreds of small fragments (Image 1) that once made up what was a nearly pristine prime example Italian Renaissance sculpture in North America prior to its fall in October 2002.  While tragic, it also presented an unprecedented opportunity to study and treat such a work on American soil using modern technology and materials which would be best suited for the repair.
Carolyn and other members of ‘Team Tullio’, a collection of conservators, conservation scientists, material scientists and engineers, explained the 3D laser scanning of each piece and the virtual reconstruction they were able to do with the technology to minimize damage to the fragile clean break edges.  It was later that year as I was pursuing my own graduate research on calcareous stone, that I found myself back at the Metropolitan Museum of Art meeting with George Wheeler, a member of the research team who was performing tests on viable adhesives and pinning materials which were previously presented at meetings prior to this talk.
The results of this material testing were combined with the initial 3D scans using a new tool to conservation based in structural engineering called ‘Finite Element Analysis’.(Image 2)
Image 2:  Results of 3D scanning and Finite Elemental Aaalysis
Image 2: Results of 3D scanning and Finite Elemental Analysis

This tool allowed the team to virtually see the areas of stress/strain in the sculpture, and determine the best and most minimal areas to use fiberglass rods for pinning along with the selected adhesive cocktail (B72:B48N, 3:1 in acetone).  This theoretical research was then put into practice on a large scale sculpture similar in size, stance and material to ‘Adam’, but definitely not of the same value (a replica of Michelangelo’s ‘David’ from wishihadthat.com).  ‘David’ posing as ‘Adam’ was broken in similar locations and subjected to what was my favorite aspect of the project, an external armature system used for clamping during the reconstruction).  The armature allowed for the pieces to be joined and held in place with precision as the often overlooked 2 week evaporation period of the solvents took place to insure maximum adhesion and reducing creep.
Finally, after over a decade of research and practice, the team implemented the treatment of ‘Adam’ in what can only be described as mesmerizing .  Now if only it were that easy and fast.  Carolyn’s talk concluded with a well-deserved standing ovation, something I had never witnessed before at a talk, but gladly jumped in with full support of the team.  This project truly was monumental and the research is something I am very fortunate to have witnessed during my graduate training and beyond.   For the Metropolitan Museum’s Report  (source of all images included) Or you could just go see it for yourself at The Met!