About the restoration of the Lipchitz Prato collection



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About the restoration of the Lipchitz Prato collection

Laura Speranza, director of the plastic and glass materials department of the Opificio delle Pietre Dure

The Comune di Prato received a significant donation of plaster works by Jacques Lipchitz. It consists of twenty-one works which represent preparatory models for the creation of works in different and more durable materials, such as bronze and marble. The Prato collection, in addition to smaller scale sculptures created in just one piece, like heads and bassorilievi, also presents several models of notable dimensions, designed in more parts with the tessellations to create joints which facilitate assembly. This is the case for Retour de l’enfant prodigue, Hair and Hands and Mother and Child. Other models were designed to be assembled with hooks through a chain from above to make these fairly large pieces self-supporting, like Between Heaven and Earth and Working model for lesson of a disaster. In several of Lipchitz’ laboratory photos, these support chains can be clearly seen. The artist very probably subdivided the bigger works into pieces to facilitate the successive casting of the bronze works.
The study for Bellerophon Taming Pegasus, despite being large, was made in just one piece, but is unstable since the upper part of the work has a wide volume while the lower supporting part is small.
The collection shows significant conservation problems, primarily due to the material of which they are composed: plaster with metallic internal structures. Plaster is a highly hygroscopic and fragile material, which is easily compromised; dust damages the surface, creating deposits that facilitate the attachment of fungus if the plaster is kept in damp environments while the metal cores can swell if oxidised or rusted.
To tackle this demanding restoration, the Comune di Prato turned to the Opificio di Pietre Dure which, with its Plastic Materials department, boasts much experience in this type of work. For this project, given the demand of completing it in a brief time frame, we thought of creating a small team of restorers, recruited from amongst those who had trained at our advanced training school.

The restoration was particularly demanding, given the large sizes of the works and the need to carry out selective cleanings to preserve the old patinas that give the plaster the appearance of old marble or ivory. However the restoration was particularly interesting because it made us revisit almost the entire career of the artist, from 1912 to 1971, with considerable changes of styles.

Restauratrice al lavoro su un\'opera di Lipchitz
Dettaglio di un restauro su un\'opera di Lipchitz

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