Michelangelo’s Dio Fluviale restored

Model for unfinished commission returned to original state

Editorial Staff
July 12, 2017 - 12:47

Thanks to a contribution by the non-profit Friends of Florence, Michelangelo’s Dio Fluviale has been restored to its original state after a three-year operation undertaken by the Opificio delle Pietre Dure.  The joint effort saw the involvement of the Opificio, the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno, the owner of the sculpture, and Casa Buonarotti, where the work has been kept for the last 50 years.


What was intended to be a temporary model, indeed made of ephemeral materials, has instead survived for over 500 years, making it one of Michelangelo’s most unique works and a rarity of its kind. The Renaissance master was commissioned to create a sculpture group of River Gods to adorn the tombs inside the New Sacristy of San Lorenzo, and he began his preliminary stages of the project with this model, executed between 1526 and 1527 in clay, earth, sand, casein and vegetable and animal fibers. During restoration, Rosanna Moradei, the head restorer, was successfully able to return the statue to its original white colour, which Michelangelo had applied to imitate the effect of marble so his patrons could better understand how the final product would look and which was covered by a darker layer during a previous restoration.


Ph. Friends of Florence


Michelangelo would ultimately abandon the work, and it lay unfinished in the New Sacristy before making its way into the hands of Bartolomeo Ammannati, who donated it in April 1583 to the Accademia delle Arti del Disegno. The work has been stored at Casa Buonarotti since December 1965, where, for conservation reasons, an on-site restoration laboratory was set up for the operation. In addition to giving the sculpture back its original colouring, minor integrations were made and the piece of was reinforced in preparation for its transfer to Palazzo Strozzi for their autumn exhibition.   

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