Donatello restored

Crucifixion on display at the Bargello

Oreste Giacche'
November 6, 2014

The restoration complete, Donatello’s Crucifixion is on display in the Bargello National Museum.

This beautiful and unique piece, created in approximately 1455, consists of a bronze panel inlaid with gold and silver. The gold and silver were applied through an encrustation process called damascening, which involves using wire and inlay of extremely thin metal.

As has happened with other bronze work from the Renaissance, a dark coating had gathered on it, hiding the gold and silver inlay. The restoration by Maria Ludovica Nicolai focused primarily on cleaning the surfaces of the three metals. The restoration was made possible by the generosity of Janet and Jim Dicke II and Friends of Florence.

Nicolai did much of the work under the eye of the curious public. As the museum has done with other restoration projects, the Bargello set up an open workstation. There, Nicolai worked for six months, delicately cleaning the bronze plate with a solvent solution, then removing the discolouration on the copper and silver and polishing with a laser.

The restoration reveals the brilliance and definition of the metals in Donatello’s Crucifixion, qualities of the Florentine sculptor’s work that Beatrice Paolozzi Strozzi, director of the Bargello, defined at the press conference presenting the restoration, as ‘the emblem of his intellectualism in the late years of his life.’

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