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Tuesday, May 30 • 3:00pm - 3:30pm
(Objects) Truth Versus Beauty: Maintaining visual unity in the treatment of Florentine polychrome terracotta sculpture

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Loss compensation in sculpture can pose treatment questions that can be resolved in many different ways. Different genres, materials and surfaces call for different treatment responses, and different pressures may come to bear when the project involves privately owned works. This paper describes the visual compensation issues affecting two sculptures from the Italian Renaissance, a life-sized glazed terracotta of S. Giovanni da Capistrano, and a smaller Plaque with Winged Putto, both by Santi Buglione.  Both were privately owned when originally treated. The S. Giovanni, now in the collection of the Los Angeles County Art Museum, is one of a group of three near life-sized figures of saints by the Florentine sculptor, a relation of the Della Robbia family.  Each of the three figures was conserved in a different studio:  two in the United States, one in Italy, and all are brought together in the current Museum of Fine Arts, Boston exhibition, Della Robbia: Sculpting with Color in Renaissance Florence.  They provide a fascinating window into differences in treatment style, technique, and materials.  The author will discuss his approach to compensation for the Buglione Plaque with Winged Putto, and the S. Giovanni da Capistrano figure, which were severely damaged and suffered a variety of condition issues.  One of the themes is selectivity -- what to treat, and what to leave untreated?  Where and how much to fill and inpaint, and where not to, to allow the original surfaces to speak of their condition and composition? What is damage to be concealed, or minimized, and what is damage to be preserved? How can the conservator avoid overtreatment and the concealment of important signs of age, composition, and inherent vice which contribute to critical patina and signal originality? How can one preserve evidence of the state of technology of the time it was made--the multiplicity of defects in the glaze and underlying original terracotta--while preserving the visual unity and coherence of the work intended by the artist.? By taking the work in stages, making careful selections, and maintaining close communication with the owner/curator, these tensions may be successfully negotiated. The author will present visual evidence and describe the practical treatment methods to illustrate his work, as well as what he would do differently now. 

avatar for Anthony Sigel

Anthony Sigel

Senior Conservator of Objects and Sculpture, Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies
Tony Sigel is the Senior Conservator of Objects and Sculpture at the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, Harvard Art Museums, and is responsible for the treatment of sculpture and three dimensional objects of all materials from pre-history to post-modern. He was... Read More →

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