Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Conventional Wisdom Overthrown

Whenever Renaissance art and architecture is discussed, someone says that a certain work was the first since ancient Greece or Rome. The conventional wisdom is that Donatello's bronze David was the first free-standing male nude since antiquity. Perhaps (even though there is a fig leaf) that's not quite true--Tullio Lombardo's Adam might claim that title.

The sculpture has been restored--it was broken into hundreds of pieces when its pedestal collapsed in 2002--and is back on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. According to the exhibition website, its return is important not just because Adam has been restored after his fall, but because the Met developed new processes and techniques for restoration:

The life-size marble statue of Adam, carved by Tullio Lombardo (Italian, ca. 1455–1532), is among the most important works of art from Renaissance Venice to be found outside that city today. Made in the early 1490s for the tomb of Doge Andrea Vendramin, it is the only signed sculpture from that monumental complex. The serene, idealized figure, inspired by ancient sculpture, is deceptively complex. Carefully manipulating composition and finish, Tullio created God's perfect human being, but also the anxious victim of the serpent's wiles.

In 2002, Adam was gravely damaged in an accident. Committed to returning it to public view, the Museum undertook a conservation treatment that has restored the sculpture to its original appearance to the fullest extent possible.

The exhibition allows Adam to be viewed in the round and explains this unprecedented twelve-year research and conservation project. It also inaugurates a new permanent gallery for Venetian and northern Italian sculpture. The installation of this gallery was made possible by Assunta Sommella Peluso, Ignazio Peluso, Ada Peluso, and Romano I. Peluso.

The website includes videos of the process of putting Adam back together again, and to describe the statue's fascinating imbalance--Adam may be ready to eat the "apple", the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. He holds the fruit and  his expression is anxious; although his body looks balanced and poised when seem from the front, but from another angle, on the right, he is counterbalanced in an uncomfortable pose--his weight looks even more strangely distributed when viewed from the left. I'm referring to and examining photos from the articles on the website, here and here. Tullio created the sculpture to reflect the image of God in Adam through the beauty of the statue and the crisis of the fall through the tension and anxiety depicted in the marble.

Obviously, the restoration of this statue of Adam after its fall reminds any Christian of the fall and rise of the Old Adam through the Paschal Sacrifice of the New Adam--Romans 5:15-19; 1 Corinthians 15:45-49--and this site describes how St. Paul compares and contrasts the two.

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