Donoho Colloquium: The Conservation of Tullio Lombardo's "Adam"

Carolyn Riccardelli is a conservator in the Department of Objects Conservation at The Metropolitan Museum of Art where she is in charge of large-scale objects.

The Winter 2015 Donoho Colloquium

  • 5:00 PM, Monday, February 9, 2015
  • Filene Auditorium, Moore Hall, Dartmouth

On the evening of October 6, 2002, the pedestal supporting Tullio Lombardo’s 15th-century marble Adam collapsed in The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Vélez Blanco Patio. The life-sized sculpture, which has been in the Museum’s permanent collection since 1936, was severely damaged. This iconic representation of Adam, inspired by antiquity, was among the earliest monumental nudes of the Renaissance, and is widely considered the most important monumental Renaissance sculpture outside of Italy. Prior to the accident it remained in a near pristine state with no breaks and virtually no loss to the carving.

The impact of the fall caused the marble sculpture to break into 28 large pieces and hundreds of small fragments. Fortunately, the face, torso, and the upper legs were relatively unscathed in the fall, but the arms and lower legs suffered major damage. The Museum’s conservators and curators agreed that the importance of the sculpture warranted a multidisciplinary collaboration to investigate new approaches to large scale sculpture treatment. A team of conservators, conservation scientists, curators, materials scientists, and engineers was brought together to determine the most effective, reversible, and least invasive treatment for the large marble sculpture.

There were many aspects to this conservation effort. The engineering aspect of the project consisted of material science and structural analysis components. The material science component was focused primarily on the selection of an adhesive and pinning material. The selection required extensive physical testing to find materials that were reversible but strong enough to withstand the forces of the assembled marble sculpture. The structural analysis component utilized the experimental data to determine the material coefficients of the marble and was mainly focused on determining where pins were required, how many, and their optimal locations. The structural analysis model was then used to evaluate “what if” scenarios to gain confidence that the reconstruction of the statue would be robust and stand the test of time.

This fascinating project was unusual in its use of virtual and physical testing techniques, both of which were critical to the conservators’ decision making process. The talk will cover many aspects of this complicated effort including the development of the innovative conservation treatment as well as the studies the Museum undertook with materials scientists and structural engineers.

Biographical note

Carolyn Riccardelli is a conservator in the Department of Objects Conservation at The Metropolitan Museum of Art where she is in charge of large-scale objects. Since 2005, her primary focus has been the structural repair of Tullio Lombardo’s Adam. Carolyn was the principal member of team of conservators and scientists conducting research on the appropriate adhesives and pinning materials for the sculpture, as well as developing innovative methods for reassembling the sculpture. This work has been described in an article recently published in the Metropolitan Museum Journal,The Treatment of Tullio Lombardo’s Adam: A New Approach to the Conservation of Monumental Marble Sculpture,” of which Carolyn is the lead author.

Committed to the educational development of conservators-in-training, Carolyn is one of the primary coordinators of an active graduate internship program in the Met’s Department of Objects Conservation. She is an active member of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (AIC), and is currently serving on the AIC Board of Directors. Carolyn holds a B.A. in anthropology from Newcomb College, Tulane University and an M.A. from the Art Conservation Program at Buffalo State College.

Patrick Cunningham brings over 25 years of engineering experience to CAE Associates. Prior to joining CAE Associates in 1998, he worked in several industries including machine design of plastic and rubber processing equipment, high power ultrasonics and elevator design.  While in the R&D group at Branson Ultrasonics he was awarded two patents for rigid transducer mounting systems that are an industry standard today.  While at Otis Elevator in 1997, he received an award for individual effectiveness for his part in the development of a modeling environment used to design closed loop active suspension systems for elevator cars.    His current responsibilities include all phases of mechanical engineering consulting projects, technical support of the ANSYS products, software training, and organization of the yearly ANSYS product update seminars provided by CAE Associates.   Pat also provides applications support for sales of the ANSYS software products. 

In his free time, Pat is an avid cyclist and competes as a member of the Horst Engineering Master's Cycling team in both road and cyclo-cross disciplines.  During the winter months, he keeps himself busy as an assistant swim coach for his local high school.

Dr. Michael Bak brings over 30 years of experience in performing and managing all phases of mechanical engineering consulting projects. His expertise includes: finite element theory, linear and nonlinear structural analysis, heat transfer analysis, composite life prediction, fracture mechanics, computer programming, and applied mathematics. In addition, Mike teaches CAE Associates' full lineup of ANSYS training seminars, and provides hotline ANSYS support to our customers. Mike develops and teaches engineering courses as an adjunct professor and lecturer at Rensselaer in Hartford and Central Connecticut State University.

Outside of the office, Mike enjoys running, kayaking and working in his robust vegetable garden.