Having recently begun conservation work on the National Gallery of Victoria’s Kore (Acc.No. 1045A-D4), I would like to share some of the fascinating history around this work, and some insights into the conservation work currently being undertaken.
As conservators, we are always interested in the history and “life” of an artwork and we are grateful for any documentation. Sometimes an old photograph, an image in an early publication or a note can provide us with important details that will help us better understand the artwork. It is like detective work and a very exciting part of our job. When you look into an artwork, sometimes quite literally using x-radiography for example, you may uncover small details that start forming a picture. The Kore is an example of such a fascinating story.
The NGV acquired the Kore in 1950 as a gift from antique dealer Mr Tomas Harris. The sculpture’s provenance can be traced back to 1896 when it was transferred from the collection of Antique Sculpture at the Palazzo Sciarra in Rome to the Museo delle Terme, also in Rome.
The Kore was later sent to the British Museum in 1950 where a Mr Fisher cleaned and made some minor repairs to it. The sculpture was sent to Australia in that same year. The statue sustained some damage during transport to Australia which was repaired on arrival by an unidentified sculptor.
As indicated in this image which was published in the The Quarterly Bulletin of the National Gallery of Victoria in 1951, the sculpture had lost its left foot, both arms and had previously been repaired.
In 1994 the head of the Kore, which had been inserted into the neck with a pin and held in place with plaster, was removed as there were doubts as to whether it belonged with the body of the Kore. Surface cleaning of the statue was undertaken and later attempts were made to reduce the staining and improve the appearance of the old repairs.
As one of these old breaks has recently come apart, this work is once again undergoing conservation treatment.
This involves removing the old adhesive that was used to repair the work in the past and also investigating how to best re-adhere the pieces.
In order to determine which are the best materials to use, I have been talking to my colleagues at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York who have undertaken comprehensive research into adhesives for marble repairs and who have investigated whether or not pins should be used in strengthening repairs of this nature.
For now, I am using a scalpel to remove what I believe might be an epoxy putty, a material commonly used by stone masons in the repair of marble.
As we learn more about this fascinating artwork and how best to restore it, I will keep you updated on this conservation story via the NGV Blog.