Tullio’s Adam returns to view at the Met

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The marble nude that smashed to pieces 12 years ago has finally been restored

Tullio’s Adam (around 1490-95) is considered the first monumental carved nude since antiquity

On the evening of 8 October 2002, the Metropolitan Museum of Art suffered what its former director Philippe de Montebello described as the “single worst thing that has ever happened at the museum”. One of its greatest treasures, Tullio Lombardo’s life-sized marble sculpture of the nude Adamcrashed to the stone floor as its medium-density plywood stand buckled and collapsed.

Carved for the tomb of the Venetian doge, Andrea Vendramin, Tullio’sAdam (around 1490-95) is considered the first monumental carved nude since antiquity and was considered by many scholars to be the most important and one of the most beautiful Italian Renaissance sculptures in America. The New York Times quoted James David Draper, the Met’s curator of European sculpture, as saying, “Luckily, the head and the torso are the least damaged… the features of the face are legible, and suffered only minor losses, mostly scratches.” However, other parts suffered “some pulverising” and one leg broke into large chunks, Draper told the New York Times.

No photographs of the damaged statue have ever been made public and Draper’s ominous observation led many to wonder exactly how much ofAdam was reduced to marble powder. Originally, the Met announced that the work could be back on view within two years, but by 2004, there was still no Adam, and the continued delay raised concerns that the sculpture was smashed beyond repair.

Now, after 12 years of meticulous restoration, Tullio’s masterpiece will return to public view by mid-November, according to the museum—on, one hopes, a sturdy pedestal of solid marble.

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