The growing need to preserve our cultural heritage is causing a rise in the demand for increasingly accurate cleaning techniques, featuring high selectivity and low impact.




AUTHORITY RESPONSIBLE OF THE RESTORATION: Museo Nazionale del Bargello, Opificio delle Pietre Dure - Florence

RESTORER:  Sveta Gennai, Fabio Burrini


Love-Atys is a bronze statue by Donatello dating back to about 1440-1443. The statue, that shows of the original gilding is 104 cm tall and it is kept at the Bargello Palace in Florence. The main reason why the National Museum of the Bargello Palace entrusted the Opificio delle Pietre Dure (Workshop of Semi-precious Stones) with the intervention on Donatello’s Atys was the need to repair an ancient evident crack in the statue’s right elbow. Atys was at the center of a wider intervention project that promoted a metal investigation of the statue and offered the opportunity to remove the later patina that covered the original patina with gold decorations. 


After the structural interventions and the cleaning to remove the varnish and wax from the bronze surface, the laser technique allowed the recovery of the gilt the artist had applied with thin gold foil and an oil-resin based adhesive. Due to the special technique used by the artist, the delicate gilt didn’t allow the use of traditional chemical and manual methods. Therefore the laser removal was the only way to ensure a higher degree of control. Due to the experience in laser techniques on gilded bronze, that has proven successful in this case and in others, (think of the outstanding cleaning of the Gates of Paradise and Verrocchio’s David), restorers were able to consider it in all safety.
El.En.’s SMART CLEAN has been selected for the cleaning. The Nd:YAG (λ 1064 nm) laser has been used with a fluence of 1.5-2 J/cm2 and 3Hz impulse repetition frequency to ensure an adequate control of the cleaning procedure. The laser beam has brought back to light what was left of the gilt in some areas such as the string around Atys’ hair, the flower on his forehead, the belt, the strings tying his pants and sandals, allowing us to appreciate one of Donatello’s masterpieces with renewed radiance.