Friday 25 October 2013

Leutwitz Apollo (7): In a Restorer's workshop

According to the CMA, the sculpture was in fragments in "1994" (but see two posts below). We have no photos or descriptions of it in that state (surely some must exist somewhere) and thus we know nothing about the type of corrosion, any surface deposits or stains. We do not even know from Bennett's supposedly "exhaustive" account in which places the statue was broken (apart from the head being detached p. ** -and the break in the neck is totally concealed to judge by the photos). Neither are we told into how many pieces it had been broken and where the breaks were. More importantly, neither is even a hint given to what extent what we see today involves any gap-filling of missing pieces. With what has the statue been "restored"? How stable is it in its present state? Bennett is silent on all of this. Is that not a bit odd in a publication which focuses on authenticity? How much of what we see is the sculptor, and how much the restorer? A perfectly valid question and one which Bennett leaves unasked let alone answered.

We know nothing of where this reconstruction took place (though see two posts below), who did it and when (in the CMA timeline). What we do know is that it had taken place before Lucia Marinescu presented undated photos of it (with a very shiny patina) in a May 2003 conference in Bucharest and Michael Bennett was viewing the object itself in April that year.

A point to note is that we have no metal analyses from before that restoration. All the analses of the metal and its corrosion ('patina') are after some kind of previous treatment(s) of unknown nature and date intended to turn something which Walter dismissed as not worth the effort into the highly desirable object on sale in 2003. Obviously any attempt to build on the results of post-treatment chemical and physical analyses has to begin from identifying what was done to the object during its restoration(s). That should be the first object of analysis, and only after that, can we begin to discuss the results of a study of where there is and is not corrosion and what kind. That stands to reason, but there is not a single word on that topic from art-historian Bennett. I will return to those corrosion products and analyses in a subsequent series of posts, I just wanted her to mark this fundamentally important part of the "collecting history" with import for later analyses.

It certainly seems time for the CMA to publish the lab reports they have concerning their own examination of this object, and the full texts of the analyses on which their case rests, methods, sample type and area, results and the author's original caveats.  These should address the question of what its present condition tells us about past chemical and physical treatments.

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