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Restoration of a Statue of Persephone

This sculpture entered the Hermitage from the Campana Collection in 1852. It was restored in the 19th century with the ancient female figure dressed in a long chiton and himation being paired with the head from another ancient statue that is adorned with a diadem. The sculpture had many restoration additions made of both marble and plaster: the nose, chin, part of the diadem, the left eyebrow, an insert on the right cheek, part of the neck, the chest, shoulders and part of the back, the left foot, the right foot with the ankle and part of the folds, as well as the pedestal. The numerous joints between the ancient part and the restoration additions were soiled, filled with a darkened dark wax-resin mastic; the surface of the original marble was covered in several places by a discoloured coating of plaster. The surface of the marble was covered with uneven soiling.

The statue of Persephone before restoration.Roman work of the 2nd century AD after a Greek original of the 4th century BC. Marble. Height: 210 cm.

To put the statue in a condition suitable for display, it was necessary to carry out the cleaning of the surface from soiling and numerous late plaster coatings, to shape the old plaster restoration additions more precisely, and to clean and fill the joints between the original elements and the numerous later additions.

  • A Statue of Persephone. Before restoration
  • A Statue of Persephone. Before restoration
  • A Statue of Persephone. Before restoration
  • A Statue of Persephone. Before restoration
  • A Statue of Persephone. Before restoration
  • A Statue of Persephone. Before restoration
  • A Statue of Persephone. Before restoration
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Before restoration work began, an examination of the state of preservation of the ancient sculpture was carried out, which identified numerous traces of previous restorations. A detailed description was compiled of work’s condition and the technique used to make it and that record will be used in producing catalogues of the collection of the Department of the Ancient World. In view of the complex make-up of the soiling on the surface of the marble and the restoration additions, work was carried out to select methods of cleaning. Late plaster coatings around the additional pieces were removed from the surface of the marble: the plaster was scraped off the marble below using surgical scalpels after preliminary wetting with distilled water. The seams at the joints were filled. The mastics were applied in layers, with each layer being worked over with fine-grain abrasive paper after it dried. Such treatment permitted the tinting and refinement of the shape of the restoration additions in accordance with the characteristics of the modelling of the ancient part and the colour and texture of its marble. Filling and tinting made it possible to visually unite the ancient fragments and the additions made of marble and plaster.

The statue of Persephone. Details. Before, during and after restoration.

The restoration work has returned the sculpture to a condition suitable for display, one that makes it possible to fully appreciate the image that the statue embodies and the achievements of the era in which it was created. The restored sculpture is now on permanent show in Hall 114 of the New Hermitage.

Restoration of the sculpture was carried out in the Hermitage’s Laboratory for the Scientific Restoration of Sculpture and Semiprecious Stone, headed by Svetlana Petrova. The work was performed by the artist-restorers Yekaterina Andreyeva and Vera Klur. The keeper of the sculpture is Liudmila Davydova, senior researcher in the State Hermitage’s Department of the Ancient World.

This project was realized with the support of individual members of the Hermitage Friends’ Club.