On the night of October 6, 2002, the pedestal supporting Adam by Tullio Lombardo gave way, and the Venetian Renaissance sculpture fell to the floor, shattering into pieces.
While damage to any artwork is just about the worst thing that could happen in a museum, this was particularly catastrophic, as the sculpture is among the most important works of art from Renaissance Venice to be found outside that city today.
Museum conservators immediately began to document the aftermath, treating it almost as a crime scene. They plotted out a grid on the floor and took a picture of every single square to capture the twenty-eight large fragments and hundreds of smaller ones. After years of research and planning, the team of conservators, scientists, engineers, and imaging experts began the painstaking effort to restore the sculpture to its original appearance to the fullest extent possible.
Twelve years after the fall, Adam is now back on view at the Metropolitan Museum in an exhibition that allows the sculpture to be viewed in the round and explains this unprecedented restoration project. Adam wears some scars from the accident, but as conservator Carolyn Riccardelli puts it, “the spirit of the sculpture and the true beauty of it is still there.”
Learn about the incredible restoration in this behind-the-scenes video.
Tullio Lombardo’s Adam: A Masterpiece Restored is on view through July 2015.