It took 12 years for the Met to restore this sculpture

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tags: Adam, Tullio Lombardo, the Met, The Metropolitan Museum of Art



It happened at 6 on a Sunday night. 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.)




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