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Museum Objects Falling Down: London’s National Gallery, New York’s Metropolitan Museum

Before the Fall: Tullio Lombardo, “Adam,” ca. 1490-95, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Martin Bailey‘s report last week in the Art Newspaper about the damage to a 500-year-old panel painting by Domenico Beccafumi at London’s National Gallery (which “slipped out of its temporary frame and dropped to the ground,” breaking in half) brought to mind a major 2002 mishap at the Metropolitan Museum—the unfortunate fall of “Adam,” a 15th-century sculpture by Venetian artist Tullio Lombardo, purchased by the Met in 1936.

According to an account by then NY Times reporter Celestine Bohlen, the marble nude “crashed to the ground in the Velez Blanco Patio…, scattering its arms, legs and an ornamental tree trunk into dozens of pieces.” The museum said then that a side of the pedestal appeared to have buckled, causing the sculpture to topple over.

It was then said to be reparable, and Bohlen quoted director Philippe de Montebello‘s reassuring words:

The figure will stand again on a solid pedestal, and frankly only the cognoscenti will know.

So far, nobody knows: It hasn’t been seen publicly since.

Here’s what Met spokesperson Elyse Topalian told me when I inquired about the Lombardo guy:

It’s still in conservation. The process is a long one and we don’t have a date scheduled as yet for when it will be back on view. I’ll keep you posted.

Apparently the fallen “Adam” previously suffered removal from display for a different reason. The Met’s website entry for the statue confides:

Prudery led to its removal from display around 1810-19, when the monument was transferred to SS. Giovanni e Paolo.

Meanwhile, the sundered panels of “Marcia,” the National Gallery’s slippery Beccafumi damaged last January, are already together again and returned to the galleries.

an ArtsJournal blog