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Project for the Restoration of the Gatchina Venus Statue

Statue of Venus (Aphrodite), known as the Gatchina Venus. Roman after a Greek original statue of Aphrodite of the 3rd–2nd century BC. Large-grained marble. Height: 194.0 cm

This statue was brought to Saint Petersburg in 1768. It is believed to have been acquired in Rome by Ivan Shuvalov, the first President of the Academy of Arts, for the Silvia Park that is situated by the Gatchina Palace. In 1886 it was transferred to the collection of the Imperial Hermitage.

The statue bears traces of numerous restoration efforts and additions made between the late 18th and 20th centuries. For example, the head, which is presumed to be ancient, does not belong to the statue. The surface of the marble differs in shade and in the ways that it has been worked. The neck has visible marks of reworking to fit it to the ancient torso of Venus. At the top on the hair there are multiple brown-coloured burial accretions that are not present on the torso of the goddess, the figure of Eros or the dolphin. The seams of the numerous joints between the ancient parts and old restoration additions are soiled, filled with mastic of various dates. They stand out sharply from the light-coloured marble and hinder a full perception of the ancient sculptural group. In some instances, the dark lines contribute to a distortion of the integrity of the shape as they are located on the most protruding parts of the figures. The surface of the work has a considerable quantity of large pits and rounded chips, as well as uneven soiling. The ancient marble is covered with dark, light-brown and yellowish patches.

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To put it in a condition suitable for display the sculpture requires cleaning of the surface of the marble, removal of late plaster additions, cleaning and filling of the joints between the original parts and the numerous later replacements, filling of the large pits and restoration of the surface of the iron frame (cleaning, conservation, tinting).

The statue is a rare example of an ancient work reconstructed by Russian sculptors. An examination and study of the traces of previous restorations will assist the conduct of the restoration work, through which a condition suitable for display will be achieved, providing the opportunity for this piece to be properly appreciated in the permanent display in the Hermitage’s Department of the Ancient World.

The work to restore the sculpture is being carried out by specialists from the State Hermitage’s Laboratory for the Scientific Restoration of Sculpture and Semiprecious Stone, which is headed by Svetlana Petrova. It is being performed by the artist-restorers Yekaterina Andreyeva, Alexander Androkhanov and Vera Klur. The keeper of the sculpture is Anna Trofimova, head of the Department of the Ancient World.

The restoration is being carried out with the support of the Gedeon Richter company.


Fedorov Evgeny