Andrea del Verrocchio's Entombment of Christ conserved at the Pushkin State Museum
The small terracotta relief Entombment of Christ by Andrea del Verrocchio has been restored as part of the project Donatello and Other Renaissance Masters: Research and Conservation. This relief, like other Italian works of the 15th and 16th centuries, was seriously damaged in an explosion and subsequent fire in the Friedrichshain Bunker in Berlin shortly before the end of the Second World War.
The fate of the piece is not an easy one. The cast, which has been preserved from the pre-war period, shows that the upper part of the relief had been badly damaged in the 19th century and the upper right corner had been lost. In 1945, the fire resulted in the work shattering into many fragments, and several important parts were destroyed. The conservators faced the difficult task of giving the relief
its original appearance.
The relief came to the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts in fragments. Later it was cleaned from the traces of fire and soot, glued together and mounted on a wooden base. Based on that, we can assume that the works that had suffered in the Friedrichshain Bunker underwent preventive conservation treatments at the museum in the post-war years. Despite this, there were still considerable damages (chipped joints, a crack in the face of Christ) and losses (Christ's knee, part of the folds of Madonna's dress, the face of Mary Magdalene).
The aforementioned 19th-century cast preserved in one of the oldest European cast shops, which is still opened in Berlin, has played a significant role in the current conservation of the piece. Thanks to it, the conservators were able to reconstruct the missing parts.
The research was done before the treatments: a report on that can be found on the page dedicated to the piece. The 19th-century relief still has a 19th-century addition, which the board of experts featuring the German colleagues decided not to remove, as not many additions from the period have survived to this day: this too is an important part of the piece's life.
You can find out more about the conservation treatments in a video interview with Julia Ustinova.
Information on all of the works from the Donatello and Other Renaissance Masters: Research and Conservation can be found on the project's page.
The work was supported by Ernst von Siemens Kunststiftung.