Biblical Archaeology Review 42:6, November/December 2016

Strata: Michael Is Mended

After an accidental fall from grace, Saint Michael the Archangel is once again fully restored, even though he is only half-length. In 2008 the 62-by-32-inch lunette sculpted by Andrea della Robbia (1435–1525), of the renowned della Robbia family (his uncle Luca invented the earthenware glazing technique), titled Saint Michael the Archangel, fell from its place in the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met) and was damaged. The statue was originally commissioned in 1475 for the San Michele Arcangelo Church in Faenza, Italy.

The legends that surround Michael are clearly displayed in the lunette—from the sword that symbolizes his role as general of heaven’s army and his ultimate defeat of Satan to the justice scales he uses to judge the souls of the dead. These details are all emphasized by the subtle blue and white palette of the sculpture.

During the restoration process, the scientists discovered tool and finger marks on the piece that helped them better understand the techniques used in its creation. After the fall, the Met has reviewed and improved all of its wall mountings.

Today Saint Michael the Archangel can be viewed in Gallery 500 in the European Sculpture and Decorative Arts Galleries of the Met.

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