Statue of Mars – Conservation Project

HISTORICAL NOTES

Before Restoration

The exact origin of this sculpture is unfortunately unknown, but has been a part of quite a number of private collections. At the end of the 700s, antique dealer and painter Gavin Hamilton laid claim to the piece, after which it was part of the Marconi collection from Frascati, and in the 19thcentury became part of the pontifical collections for installation within the Lateran Museum.

Finally, in 1963 it was transferred to the Vatican along with other findings, and some years later was exhibited in the new Gregorian Profane museum.

The body is that of a young man in heroic nudity, dressed only with a cape fastened by a clasp on the right shoulder, partially covering his back. The statuary type of this artifact is notable by comparison with other replicas of the imperial age, inspired by Greek sculpture models of the 5th century BC. However, this one appears to have been adapted in the course of the 2nd century AD.  For honorary statues this was often the case—especially portraits of emperors such as Antonino Pio, Marco Aurelio, and Lucio Vero. In this case, the military character of the iconographic typology is revealed by the armor shaped like a tree trunk, which lies on the support next to the right leg.

Moreover, the head, which also was modified during modern restoration interventions, can be compared to other replicas of the imperial ages. The origin is hypothetically from a bronze statue that depicts the Greek god of war, Ares, and created in Attica between 430 and 420 BC.

CONSERVATION PROCESS

After Restoration

CLEANING:

  • Chemical cleaning, removal of coherent surface particle deposits using a stone pack of sepiolite (a magnesium mineral), pulp paper and water, interposed by a sheet of Japanese paper treated with a 10% ammonium bicarbonate solution;
  • On the uneven upper vertical surface areas, buffer cleaning was done with the help of Japanese paper, hot water and a 10% ammonium bicarbonate solution;
  • Traces of brown-reddish paint were eliminated using swabs and acetone;
  • Extraction of removeable salt deposits left on the painted surface; this was done using Japanese paper and water;

REMOVALS:

  • The plaster fig leaf was removed with the aid of water and a chisel; the large plaster grout located at the rear of the stone base was also removed;
  • Pin removal: the oxidized metal pin holding the sword was replaced with one in stainless steel. Bonding was carried out with EPO 121 epoxy inserted in the pivotal area at the base of the handle (only at the top). This area was then liberally filled with Plasticrete mixed with marble powder. The sword was secured by creating light gluing points with EPO 121 on the support of the handle adjacent to the sword;

GROUTING:

  • Gaps were filled with stucco composed of lime putty and marble powder and chromatically matched to the color of the marble surface.