The plaster relief Minerva in Battle (1821) by Christian Daniel Rauch is one of four original models created for the pedestal of Scharnhorst Monument on the Berlin boulevard Unter den Linden. Today the monument can be found at Bebelplatz, across from the war memorial Neue Wache. The relief depicts the goddess Minerva, rushing rightward with both her shield and spear raised, accompanied by two armor-clad young men.
For years, the heavily fragmented condition of the plaster relief meant that it could only be stored flat in the storerooms. In order to stabilize it, diagonally crossed metal rods were inserted into the plaster when it was made. Over time, damp storage conditions caused these metal reinforcements to rust. As a result of the metal’s expanding, the entire relief shattered into numerous fragments. In addition, the relief suffered damage while being transported several times; this alone necessitated restoration and conservation treatments. One of the museum’s additional objectives was to present for the first time in 80 years the newly restored relief together with Minerva Teaching, a relief which had been restored earlier.
The Alte Nationalgalerie carried out an analysis of the relief, assessed and evaluated its condition, and developed a restoration plan. Between November 2013 and January 2015, an independent conservator worked on location together with the museum to complete the restoration.
It was anything but an ordinary commission: the conservator was tasked with piecing together more than 40 fragments, which were partly deformed and thus did not always align. Even the order in which the pieces were adhered had to be planned in advance with experimental dry-run trials. In addition, several significant relief fragments had been lost and needed to be reconstructed from historical models and the marble original on Unter den Linden.
The result is impressive. Since 2017 the restored and partly reconstructed work can be seen together with Minerva Teaching in the foyer of the head offices of the Stiftung Preussischer Kulturbesitz in the Villa von der Heydt. We are pleased to once again be able to exhibit the relief.
Staff: Alexandra Czarnecki, Skulpturenrestauratorin Alte Nationalgalerie, Anna von Graevenitz (Restauratorin)
Duration: 2013 to 2015
Funding: from Staatliche Museen zu Berlin Funds
Contact person: Alexandra Czarnecki, Skulpturenrestauratorin Alte Nationalgalerie