Naples and Beyond

The Restoration of Ancient Bronzes: Naples and Beyond

Edited by Erik Risser and David Saunders, with contributions by Andrea Milanese, Carol C. Mattusch, Luigia Melillo, Salvatore Siano, Sophie Descamps-Lequime, Benoît Mille, Dominique Robcis, Nathalie Balcar, Uwe Peltz, Seán Hemingway, Sarah McGregor, Dylan Smith, Luisa Fucito


147 pages

PDF file size: 13.1 MB


The archaeological finds at Herculaneum and Pompeii have rendered Naples an especially rich field for the study of the history of restorations, particularly of ancient bronzes. Bringing together the research of an international group of curators, conservators, archivists, and scientists, this extensively illustrated online volume examines the evolving practice of bronze restoration in Naples and other European centers from the eighteenth century to today.

Presenting the results of new investigations, this collection of essays and case studies addresses the contexts in which the restorations took place, the techniques and materials used, the role of specialists, and changing attitudes to the display of these statues. Along with a rich selection of images, these texts offer a significant contribution to the history of restoration and conservation, providing valuable information regarding the evolution of taste and museum practices at a formative stage of modern archaeology.

The essays collected here were written following a series of presentations at a one-day conference, “Restoring Ancient Bronzes in the Nineteenth Century,” held at the J. Paul Getty Museum on May 6, 2011.

Each illustrated essay is accompanied by a separate gallery of large-format images to facilitate study and analysis.

Edited by Erik Risser, associate conservator in the Department of Antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum, and David Saunders, assistant curator in the Department of Antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum, this collection is part of the Getty’s ongoing commitment to the online publication of scholarly conferences and symposia.

Table of Contents

  • Introduction
    Erik Risser and David Saunders
  • Exhibition and Experiment: A History of the Real Museo Borbonico
    Andrea Milanese
  • Appearances Can Be Deceiving: The Presentation of Bronzes from Herculaneum and Pompeii
    Carol C. Mattusch
  • The Restoration History of the Bronze Apollo and Diana from Pompeii
    Erik Risser and David Saunders
  • The Ephebe from the Villa dell’Abbondanza: History of a Restoration
    Luigia Melillo
  • The Birth and Second Life of the Minerva of Arezzo
    Salvatore Siano
  • The Child with a Bulla in the Louvre: History of the Reconstruction and Restoration of an Ancient Bronze
    Sophie Descamps-Lequime, Benoît Mille, Dominique Robcis, and Nathalie Balcar
  • Mounting and Patina: Nineteenth-Century Solutions in the Restoration of Large Bronzes in Berlin’s Antikensammlung
    Uwe Peltz
  • The Bronze Statue of Trebonianus Gallus in the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Restoration, Technique, and Interpretation
    Seán Hemingway, Sarah McGregor, and Dylan Smith
  • Methods and Materials Used for Patination at the Fonderia Chiurazzi
    Luisa Fucito

About the Authors

Nathalie Balcar is a conservation scientist working with conservators to further knowledge of cultural heritage through stratigraphic studies and the identification of pigments. She specializes in the characterization of organic materials by various chromatographic techniques. In 1999 she joined the Centre de Recherche et de Restauration des Musées de France, and since 2008 she has focused on the analyses of plastics and other modern materials.

Sophie Descamps-Lequime is curator in the Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities at the Musée du Louvre and has been in charge of the collection of Greek and Roman bronzes since 1983. In the context of the opening of Le Grand Louvre, she was responsible for the complete reorganization of the Salle des Bronzes. Descamps-Lequime was one of the curators of Les Bronzes de la Couronne (Musée du Louvre, 1999), The Eye of Josephine: The Antiquities Collection of the Empress in the Musée du Louvre (High Museum of Art, 2008), and Au royaume d’Alexandre le Grand—La Macédoine antique (Musée du Louvre, October 2011). She also edited the proceedings of the symposium Peinture et couleur dans le monde grec antique (Paris, 2007). In connection with the Croatian Apoxyomenos (displayed at the Louvre from November 2012 to February 2013), she co-organized a one-day workshop on the topic of dating Classical and Helle-nistic bronzes.

Luisa Fucito studied modern literature at the Università degli Studi di Napoli Federico II and history of art at the Università degli Studi Suor Orsola Benincasa in Naples. She is a historical and technical consultant to a number of important foundries in Naples, notably the Fonderia Chiurazzi. Fucito is also curator of this foundry’s photographic archive and collection of more than 1,500 plaster casts. Her publications include a valuable study of the history and production practices of this foundry, La Fonderia Artistica Chiurazzi: La forma dell’arte (Naples, 2009). Fucito has organized exhibitions at the Galleria d’Arte Contemporanea Ediarte and the Palazzo Reale in Naples.

Seán Hemingway received his doctor of philosophy from Bryn Mawr College and studied at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens as a Fulbright Scholar. A specialist in Greek and Roman bronzes, he is a curator in the Department of Greek and Roman Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. A seasoned archaeologist, Hemingway has excavated prehistoric, classical, and Roman sites in Greece and Mallorca. He was a visiting curator at the American Academy in Rome in 2003 and again in 2012 and is one of the curators responsible for the reinstallation of the new Greek and Roman galleries in The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Sarah McGregor received her master of fine arts and diploma in art conservation from the Conservation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts at New York. She is associate conservator in The Sherman Fairchild Center for Objects Conservation at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she has focused on conservation of a broad range of objects for major reinstallations of the Greek and Roman galleries and the recently reopened Islamic galleries. She is currently conserving silver objects from the Henry R. Luce Center for the Study of American Art in the museum’s American Wing.

Carol C. Mattusch is Mathy Professor of Art History in the Department of History and Art History at George Mason University. A graduate of Bryn Mawr College, she received her doctor of philosophy in art history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Mattusch was guest curator of Pompeii and the Roman Villa: Art and Culture around the Bay of Naples (National Gallery of Art, 2008) and principal author and editor of the catalogue. She also curated The Fire of Hephaistos: Large Classical Bronzes from North American Collections (Harvard Art Museums, 1996), for which she and Henry Lie wrote the catalogue. Mattusch’s other publications include The Villa dei Papiri at Herculaneum: Life and Afterlife of a Sculpture Collection, also with Henry Lie (Los Angeles, 2005); The Victorious Youth (Los Angeles, 1997); J.J. Winckelmann, Letter and Report on the Discoveries at Herculaneum (Los Angeles, 2011). Most recently she edited Rediscovering the Ancient World on the Bay of Naples, 1710–1890 (Washington, D.C., 2013).

Luigia Melillo is an archaeologist and coordinating director at the Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei. She is in charge of the conservation and restoration laboratory of the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli and has played a critical role in developing the Museo Archeologico’s collaborations with the J. Paul Getty Museum. Melillo teaches restoration methodology and techniques at the Università degli Studi Suor Orsola Benincasa in Naples. She has excavated many ancient sites throughout Campania and published numerous articles on archeology and restoration, including studies on the Alexander Mosaic from the Casa del Fauno in Pompeii, Diana Tifatina’s Sanctuary in Capua, the Cappella dei SS. Martiri in the Basiliche Paleocristiane in Cimitile, the Tomb of the Dancers from Ruvo di Puglia, the topography of ancient Capua, the Norman Abbey of San Lorenzo ad Septimum in Aversa, and the collection of Matres Matutae of Capua.

Andrea Milanese is an art historian in the Soprintendenza per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei and is responsible for the historical archives of the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli. His research interests cover the history of museums and collecting in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and the history of restoration. In addition to publishing Album Museo: Immagini fotografiche ottocentesche del Museo Nazionale di Napoli (Naples, 2009), a collection of photographs of the museum taken in the nineteenth century, Milanese has participated in the organization of several international exhibitions and conferences and published numerous essays and articles. He taught museology as a member of the faculty of architecture at the University of Naples, spent three years in Paris as research associate at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and the Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art, and was a visiting professor at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales.

Benoît Mille has been an archaeometallurgist in the Ministry of Culture at the Centre de Recherche et de Restauration des Musées de France since 1993. His research focuses on copper-based alloys and seeks to determine elemental compositions and metalworking techniques. His research has been applied to the study of large bronze statues from Classical Antiquity (Egyptian, South-Arabian, Greek and Roman civilizations); the phenomenon of metal hoards during the European Bronze Age; and the conditions for the emergence of metallurgy (France, Pakistan, Chile).

Uwe Peltz began working as a restorer at the Berlin Postmuseum (today the Museum für Kommunikation) in 1986, after training as a toolmaker. He enrolled for further study as a conservator of metal objects in 1989, and in 1991 joined the staff of the Antikensammlung in Berlin. He successfully completed his studies in 1993 and is currently examining 300 years of restoration techniques in the collections in the Berlin Antikensammlung for his dissertation at the Staatliche Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Stuttgart. In addition to the conservation of metal finds, Peltz’s research interests lie in the study of production technologies, such as those of metal vessels and large bronze sculptures, and restoration histories of ancient bronzes. He has published widely on these themes, and has curated several exhibitions and conferences, including kulturGUTerhalten – Restaurierung archäologischer Schätze an den Staatlichen Museen zu Berlin (2009). For several years Peltz also worked on the metal finds from excavations at the Samian Heraion and published Nälgel, Stifte, Niete: Befestigungstechnik im samischen Heraion (Oxford, 2011).

Erik Risser holds a bachelor of arts in classical archaeology from the University of Evansville and a master of science in conservation for archaeology and museums from the Institute of Archaeology, University College, London. As associate conservator of antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum, he has been involved in the treatment of numerous objects in the museum’s collection and is currently working on the study and treatment of the bronze statue of Tiberius from Herculaneum for the exhibition Tiberius: Portrait of an Emperor at the Getty Villa. Risser was also the conservator of the bronze statue of Apollo Saettante and co-curated the associated exhibition, Apollo from Pompeii: Investigating an Ancient Bronze (J. Paul Getty Museum, 2011). He collaborated on several initiatives with other museums, which resulted in the exhibitions Reconstructing Identity: A Statue of a God from Dresden (J. Paul Getty Museum, 2009–2010) and The Hope Hygieia: Restoring a Statue’s History (J. Paul Getty Museum, 2008). Risser previously worked for the British Museum and the Institute of Archaeology on the ’Ain Ghazal Statue Project and is currently a conservator at the excavations of Sagalassos, Turkey.

Dominique Robcis is head of the archaeological department at the Centre de Recherche et de Restauration des Musées de France and has been responsible for the conservation of ancient metal artifacts since 2002. He has a maîtrise in medieval history and another in the conservation of metals; his research interests focus on technological studies of archaeological artifacts. More specifically, Robcis studies patinas and gilding, and directs several projects in collaboration with the Musée du Louvre. He also teaches at both the École du Louvre and the Institut National du Patrimoine in Paris.

David Saunders is assistant curator in the Department of Antiquities at the J. Paul Getty Museum. He obtained his doctorate in classical archaeology from Lincoln College, University of Oxford, with a thesis on dead and dying figures in Athenian vase painting. He was curator for the Getty Villa’s installations of The Golden Graves of Ancient Vani (2009) and Aphrodite and the Gods of Love (2012), and co-curator of Apollo from Pompeii: Investigating an Ancient Bronze (2011). Saunders is currently developing exhibitions on the Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia, the bronze portrait of Tiberius from Herculaneum, and a group of large South Italian vases that were restored in the nineteenth century.

Salvatore Siano graduated with a degree in physics from the University of Florence. Since 1994 he has been a researcher at the Istituto di Fisica Applicata Nello Carrara of the Italian National Research Council in Florence. He has participated in and has been responsible for various national and international research projects dedicated to the study and conservation of cultural heritage. He has developed physical techniques for material characterization and conservation and actively pursues archaeometallurgical research. Among his most relevant contributions to the field are studies of unique masterpieces such as Andrea del Verrocchio’s David, Donatello’s Attis and David, Lorenzo Ghiberti’s Porta del Paradiso, Vincenzo Danti’s Decollazione del Battista, Giovan Francesco Rustici’s Predica del Battista, the Arringatore, the Minerva from Arezzo, and the Chimaera of Arezzo. The results of his research have been reported in many publications, including scientific journals, books, and proceedings of international conferences.

Dylan Smith received his master of fine arts and diploma in art conservation from the Con-servation Center of the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University. From 1999 to 2004, he served as an objects conservator for the reinstallation of the Greek and Roman galleries at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. He also served for many years as a supervisory conservator at the Harvard-Cornell Archaeological Excavations at Sardis, Turkey. Since 2005, Smith has focused on the technical study of Renaissance bronzes as the Robert H. Smith Research Conservator at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.