Restoration of the Bust of a young woman

Author Mino da Fiesole
Title Bust of a young woman
Material Marble
Technique Marble carving
Conservator(s) Oleg Sinitsyn
Workshop Objects Conservation

Bust of a young woman attributed to Mino da Fiesole (1480) and made in the classic style of marble carving. The statue was severely damaged in a fire at Friedrichshain Castle in Berlin in 1945. The sculptures that survived the fire suffered more serious damage than the products of combustion and mechanical damage. The first stage of damage is damage to the structure of the stone, the general darkening and brittleness, due to prolonged exposure to high temperatures. The second stage of damage is the calcination of marble layers, these areas acquire white colour and have a similar structure to sugar: they absorb moisture well and crumble into dust on impact. The process of calcination is an interesting challenge for further research, which has been conducted by the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts together with the Kurchatov Institute. A characteristic feature of this process is its rapidity, which to us, without going into the subtlety of chemical reactions, can be seen in the presence of a fairly clear border between the grey and white colours of the damaged marble structure. Unfortunately, this bust had all degrees of fire damage, was split into 4 fragments with numerous chips and cracks and had multiple stains - contamination with products of combustion.

The main difficulty of the restoration work on this piece was to strike a balance between strengthening the stone and cleaning the surface contamination. Cleaning can cause further damage and provoke scaling, while consolidation fixes not only the damaged areas but also the dirt on the surface. Each fragment of the bust was carefully inspected, and contamination was removed using the most delicate methods. All chipped areas were treated with special adhesive compositions. After the fragments were glued together, it took a long time to find the most suitable imitation materials to make up for the loss. To recreate the original forms of the lost fragments, a plaster copy of the bust, held in our museum, was used. As a result, appropriate adhesive compositions with fillers were chosen for different lost fragments and moulds were made. This resulted in the restoration of the nose, the right ear, a fragment of the right shoulder and numerous chipped fragments. In the final phase of the restoration work, retouches were made.