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Tuesday, May 30 • 2:30pm - 3:00pm
(Objects) The Comprehensive Re-Treatment of a Renaissance Terracotta Altarpiece by Benedetto Buglioni

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"Adoration of the Shepherds" was sculpted in the Florentine workshop of Benedetto Buglioni sometime around the year 1520 and bears the coats of arms of Alessandra Pazzi and Bartolommeo Buondelmonti. Significant in scale, standing at ten and a half feet tall, the altarpiece was acquired by the Art Institute of Chicago in 1924. In 2006 it was consigned to storage where it languished for the next decade awaiting its inclusion in the newly-designed galleries of Medieval and Renaissance Art which opened in March of 2017. Comprehensive examination in preparation for treatment revealed that in addition to significant damages, misalignments and disfiguring fills to its 46 sculptural ceramic segments, the wooden cradle onto which the segments had been mounted for at least 100 years was unstable, necessitating its complete disassembly and reconstruction. All technical and treatment aspects of the dismantling, reassembly, reintegration and remounting of the altarpiece will be explored at length but several topics will specifically be highlighted. In particular, the timeframe allotted for treatment did not permit the use of standard mounts despite the fact that the weight, cantilevered position and limited surface area of many of the segments demanded additional support beyond an adhesive system. As a result, a novel solution was designed in response to this mandate. Considerable time will also be spent outlining the myriad inherent problems in attempting to display architectural objects such as these in a context so far removed from the original and the inevitable compromises and regrets that accompany the resultant decisions. An ancillary benefit of the wholesale restoration of the "Adoration" was the unprecedented opportunity to study its construction and to reveal the features conferred on it through the processes of both fabrication and previous repair. These features and idiosyncrasies, which are perhaps unique to the Buglioni workshop—a topic little explored in either the conservation or art historical literature—will also be presented. This massive undertaking happily coincided with similar large-scale treatments being performed concurrently at multiple institutions across the country and abroad. In isolation, treatment of the "Adoration" was a monumental achievement, especially considering the scheduling constraints under which it was performed. But when viewed in the context of the broad and prodigious efforts toward similar goals by so many others during the exact same period, the treatment was even more remarkable, constituting a chapter in a unique volume of conservation history, exemplifying the singular benefits of—but also the caution needed in—cross-institutional collaboration and communication.

avatar for Rachel C. Sabino-[PA]

Rachel C. Sabino-[PA]

Associate Conservator of Objects, Art Institute of Chicago
RACHEL C. SABINO has been Associate Conservator of Objects at the Art Institute of Chicago since 2011 where, in addition to treatment-related activities, she has been a co-author of the museum's online scholarly catalogue of Roman art. Rachel held previous positions at the National... Read More →

Tuesday May 30, 2017 2:30pm - 3:00pm CDT
Crystal Ballroom B Lobby Level, West Tower