Daniele di Volterra’s bust of Michelangelo was recently restored by Nicola Salvioli.
The project was mostly conservative in nature, as the surfaces were shown to be covered in various substances, possibly due to a historic “cleaning” with acidic materials that would have eliminated the original patina and led to corrosions that were aggravated over time. The intervention was aimed at restoring the legibility of the work and searching for its original patina, and backed by a diagnostics campaign that collected information about the bust’s state of conservation. The balance between the bust and its pedestal was also re-established with the addition of a metal support placed on the back and by reinforcing the stone base so as to allow it to be secured to the wall.
The sculpture was made following Michelangelo’s death in 1564, when the Renaissance master’s nephew Leonardo Buonarroti commissioned Daniele da Volterra with the task. The realistic bust was copied many times, though the three originals made by Volterra have all been identified as such. One is currently housed in Florence’s Casa Buonarroti and the second at the Jacquemart-André Museum in Paris, while the third, the subject of the restoration, was first placed in the Horti Leonini and later in Ferdinand I de’ Medici’s collections. There, the bust’s provenance became difficult to determine because Ferdinand was the owner of two busts, one of which went to the Accademia and the other to the Bargello Museum. Salvioli’s restoration confirmed that the Accademia’s bust is the original made by Volterra.
Cecilie Hollberg, director of the Accademia Gallery, expressed that the restoration “restores, in all its glory, the true face of the great Renaissance master. The bust of Michelangelo, located at the entrance to the Tribuna, welcomes, quite perfectly, the public that come from all over the world to admire his masterpieces.”