At the same time as the two sandstone putti at the end of last year I also got the commission of restoring a statue of Diana or Artemis. It turned out to be a casting of the famous sculpture that was made by the Greek sculptor Praxiteles: the Diana of Gabii, of which the original is in the Louvre Museum. The statue was discovered in 1792 in the garden of the Prince of Borghese, who sold it in 1807 to Napoleon. Since 1820 it is kept in the Louvre.
This casting was made in terracotta, by the Berlin firm Ernst March Söhne, that mostly produced garden statues, vases and ornaments in terracotta. Presumably it dates from around the end of the 19th century.
The sculpture was offered to my client in a damaged condition. It came, just as the two sandstone putti, from a now dismantled estate near Beverwijk. An arm was missing and there were many small damages to the robe. I first thought of hunting damage caused by an over-enthusiastic huntsman, but it could also have been caused by plaster inclusions in the terracotta which expanded over time. At least that's what my colleague Stide Vos told me , and he was trained as a ceramist.
Restoration of Artemis
To begin with, I started to put the lady back on her feet. The ankles and the trunk were reinforced with four thick stainless steel wire ends of 16 mm thick and strong epoxy adhesive. Should any force be applied to the base plate, for example when moving the sculpture, then that pressure will be spread out from the bottom to above the knees.
I then, once again out of stainless steel wire ends, constructed a frame for the arm, hand and fingers by welding, around which I made a whole new right arm with strong restoration mortar.
I noticed that the whole character of the sculpture changed as soon as it was complete again: from a standing doll it became a lady who is take care of her outfit; loosening the button, or as the Romans called it, an fibula, and is apparently in the process of preparing for her bath. Hence its future location by the pool really seems appropriate.
It proved quite tricky to make all the details, on the fibula for instance, and that got me to think about the workmanship of the ancient Greek sculptors. I had the advantage of a solid stainless steel frame in the fingers, but Praxiteles carved the whole statue from one block of marble. The sculptor in question at the time has been carving away with great craftsmanship and the patience of an angel, making those little fingers from marble with a rasp!