Project Description

Marble Bust of Pietro Zen, Alessandro Vittoria, 1570 ca.
Bode Museum, Berlin 

Restoration of the marble bust of Pietro Zen, Alessandro Vittoria, 1570 ca.

Bode Museum, Berlin

Project Director
Staatlitche Museen zu Berlin Preussischer Kulturbesitz

Venetian Heritage

Start date
July 2010

End date
September 2010

10.000,00 €

The bust of Pietro Zen is among the most important works of the Venetian Renaissance in the Bode Museum’s collection. It was acquired in 1841 by Gustav Waagen, the first director of the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin, from the Pajaro collection of Venice, with a bust by Alessandro Vittoria of Ottavio Grimani. While Grimani’s bust survived World War II unscathed, Zeno’s bust was severely damaged by fires that spread in the final days of the war in the bunker in Friedrichshain, where many works from Berlin’s museums were stored. The bust was brought to the Soviet Union after the war and returned to East Berlin in 1958. It was held in museum storage until its 2010 restoration, funded by Venetian Heritage.
The fire damaged the marble surface creating large blackened, browned, and yellowed areas. The fire also caused losses. The head was missing both ears, and the neck and folds of the cloak where the cloak is attached with a pin on the left shoulder were interspersed with noticeable chipping. Some pictures from 1933 also showed a long crack that horizontally crossed the left side of the bust from the front of the back.
Its pedestal, which was lost, was rebuilt based on images from the same 1933 photo.
The goal of the conservation was to return the bust to its original appearance and condition. Work commenced with the bust’s head, which had been originally connected by a bronze pin that went through the neck. Next there was an overall cleaning by micro-vaporization and another phase of removing brown and black deposits left by the fire. The work was whitened through sponging with turpentine and then dipotassium phosphate. It was then washed with distilled water, which also served to remove salt deposits.
Further steps were taken to prevent unstable parts from deteriorating.
In addition to reconstructing the pedestal, the ears were also reconstructed by referring to the detailed photos taken before the fire and a plaster cast made before the war.
A mold was made true to the original with which a quartz and marble powder mixture was devised in a color similar to the marble’s original surface. This procedure was also used to reconstruct other clearly visible gaps. The final phase of restoration involved repairing the appearance of the marble surface, both in its color tones and shine. The new pedestal was treated to create a suitably aged patina.