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Technical investigation and restoration

Restoration of Ariadna Taller romano 2 December 2011

Ariadna (2nd Century AD), Roman version of a 2nd Century BC Greek sculpture, is on display again following its restoration and after remodeling the peculiar room in which is usually exhibited, known as 'Ariadna's Rotunda'.

Restoration of Ariadna

Ariadna, Anonymous. 150 – 175. Sculpture on white marble. 99 x 238 x 95 cm. Madrid, Museo Nacional del Prado. After restoration.


State of preservation

When restoration work began in October 2010 the sculpture presented a significant amount of surface dirt indicating that it had been exposed to the air for a lengthy period of time. It also had traces of greasy substances and remains of a protective wax layer that had resulted in the accumulation of dust and other solid particles.

This sculpture is made up of numerous fragments, some of them original and others later additions. This is a characteristic frequently encountered in works in the Museum’s classical sculpture collection, particularly in those formerly in the royal collections. In this case, the reconstructions date from the 17th century when the sculpture was the subject of intervention in Gianlorenzo Bernini’s studio. They are high quality additions and can be seen as a historical document that reflects the taste and criteria of earlier restoration methods when complete reconstruction was the intended outcome.

Each of the original or later elements of which the Ariadneis now made up produced joins that resulted in clearly visible dark lines, the presence of which prevented an overall reading of the work.

The losses to the sculpture were insignificant, mainly consisting of the fingers and toes, in addition to small breaks in the folds of the clothes and gaps in the back in areas of replaced elements.

When previously displayed at the Museum the sculpture had been placed on a polyester support in order to close the lateral spaces.

Detail of&nbsp;Ariadna&#39;s&nbsp;foot after restoration

Detail of Ariadna's foot after restoration

Detail of&nbsp;Ariadna&#39;s&nbsp;foot before restoration

Detail of Ariadna's foot before restoration


The entire surface of the work was cleaned in order to remove deposits of solid particles and surface coatings.

The joins were filled in with a reversible material in order to lie flat.

The chromatic reintegration of the joins was entirely limited to the gaps, following the criteria of reversibility and of making them visually discernible. All reintegration must be distinguishable from the original in order to avoid possible falsifications and must be easily removable without harm to the work should this be necessary.

The chromatic reintegration was carried out with watercolour using the dot method as a differentiating technique.

The aim of chromatic reintegration is to achieve the complete visual integration of the joins in order to see theAriadne as a visual whole and in a formally unified manner. It should be remembered that this is a work from a sculpture collection rather than an archaeological collection. As a consequence, its visual interpretation must be unified so that no element or line of fragmentation can break the visual unity of the whole by having too much visual impact. When looking at the Ariadne, the viewer must perceive the whole before the parts, seeing a complete work rather than an accumulation of fragments.

Following the criteria of minimal intervention the Museum's restorers did not aim to reconstruct the missing pieces of the fingers and toes. However, the gaps in the back were covered up by filling them in using the same technique that was employed for the joins.

As a preventative conservation measure the sculpture has been set on a stainless steel base that will enable it to be moved around and installed. The base and the sculpture have thus become a single unit to ensure its safe movement, handling, packing, installation and storage. This system will be easily adaptable to different display concepts by the addition of a cover of the required material and colour in each case.

Given that the work is now in a museum environment no protective layer was applied, thus respecting the surface of the stone by not applying any additional substance to it.

Detail of&nbsp;Ariadna&#39;s&nbsp;knee after restoration

Detail of Ariadna's knee after restoration

Detail of&nbsp;Ariadna&#39;s&nbsp;knee during restoration

Detail of Ariadna's knee during restoration

Detail of&nbsp;Ariadna&#39;s&nbsp;knee before restoration

Detail of Ariadna's knee before restoration