The study of Bacchus resumed in the 1980s in the Museum’s new conservation lab. Samples of marbles were taken from the ancient parts of the sculpture, and the analysis confirmed that the head was from a different ancient sculpture. The head was then removed. In 1990 the postantique ivy leaves, berry clusters, and locks of hair were removed from the head, which was then displayed in the Classical Galleries. This derestoration, however, did not extend to the rest of the sculpture, and the rare ancient torso was left trapped in the patchwork statue
About the Project
With this new information, discussions began on what to do with the partially derestored statue. To address important art-historical and ethical questions, Rocheleau and Abbe, together with objects conservator Corey Smith Riley and the NCMA Art Conservation staff, developed the Bacchus Conservation Project.
The project includes completing the derestoration begun 30 years ago as well as conducting scientific research to understand the 16th/17th-century restoration methods and the sculpture’s history. The added elements will be used, together with newly made replicas of the ancient fragments and a newly sculpted arm, to re-create Bacchus in full.
All three elements (the head, newly freed torso, and re-creation of Bacchus) will be displayed along with digital experiences to engage the public in the conservation process. Behind-the-scenes interactive programs will explore how the scientific method is used to solve real-world art challenges. At the conclusion of the project, the NCMA will gain a rare and significant ancient work of art from its own collection.
The Bacchus Conservation Project is made possible by:
Bank of America
The Institute of Museum and Library Services (MA-30-16-0264-16)
Additional support provided by Steve and Frosene Zeis and Don Davis and Peggy Wilks.
Support for collection research and initial study of the statue of Bacchus is made possible by Ann and Jim Goodnight/The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fund for Curatorial and Conservation Research and Travel.