Restored Saint Michael the Archangel by Andrea della Robbia Back on View at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Andrea della Robbia. Saint Michael the Archangel, ca. 1475. Glazed terracotta; wood frame.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Harris Brisbane Dick Fund, 1960

The Metropolitan Museum of Art's late-15th-century glazed terracotta relief sculpture Saint Michael the Archangel by Andrea della Robbia (1435–1525) has returned to view in the Museum's European Sculpture and Decorative Arts Galleries. The sculpture was damaged in a fall in 2008 and has since been restored by conservators in the Museum's Department of Objects Conservation.
The blue-and-white, 62-x-32-inch lunette presents Saint Michael in half-length, clad in armor and drapery inspired by antique sources. The Archangel holds a sword, signifying his leadership of the holy army and defeat of Satan, and scales, with which he compassionately weighs the souls of the deceased to determine their fate. The artist's detailed description of armor, feathers, and loose curls of hair frame the smooth perfection of the Archangel's peaceful face. A simplified palette of blue and white brings forward the expressive force of the modeling, and was favored especially by Andrea's uncle, Luca della Robbia, who invented this technique of glazing earthenware.
The sculpture was commissioned ca. 1475 for the church of San Michele Arcangelo in Faenza, a town in the region of Emilia-Romagna renowned for its production of pottery in the Renaissance. The church was dismantled around 1798 and the relief has been in The Met's collection since 1960.
Following the accident a review of existing wall-mounted sculpture at The Met was undertaken and safeguards were improved. Comprehensive inspections and formal documentation and approvals are among the systems in place to ensure that The Met's installation standards are rigorously upheld and artworks are protected. 
The conservation treatment of Saint Michael the Archangel involved meticulous reconstruction, as well as filling and in-painting of losses, with results that are only visible at close range. The study of the piece while undergoing treatment revealed finger and tool marks and working techniques that shed new light on how the sculpture was made. A new mounting system was designed to secure each of the sculpture's original 12 interlocking sections independently while allowing the relief to be seen clearly as a whole. 
Saint Michael is installed close to eye-level in Gallery 500 in the European Sculpture and Decorative Arts Galleries so that visitors can examine the sculpture's luminous glazing and the expressive force of its modeling.



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