In the Gipsformerei at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin paint is used to imitate a wide variety of materials from stone to different woods and metals. A further task is the reproduction of the original colouring of works that were painted, such as the bust of Nefertiti. The imitation of the original surface of a material poses a considerable challenge that requires many years of experience as well as a strong interest in experimenting with different techniques and a talent for improvisation.
Museum replicas recreate the patina of a sculpture, the cracks and changes that have occurred over time. For example, paint may be chipped off in certain places to ensure that the replica has the same signs of wear and tear as the original. The museum replicas can hardly be distinguished from the models they are based on thanks to the painstaking application of layers of paint.
The most important tool for the painter of sculptures is the painting model. These are casts that were painted directly in front of the original and aim to reproduce the colour scheme as precisely as possible. Adhering closely to the model, the paint is applied with brushes and sponges to a ground of shellac. Nowadays plant-based pigments are increasingly preferred in order to make the museum replicas even closer to the original artworks.
A particularly elaborate painting project was undertaken in autumn 2015 with the introduction of the new Nefertiti replica. The basis for this work was a comparative analysis of the paint by the Rathgen-Forschungslabor. Original pigments are used for this cast, applied wherever possible with traditional painting techniques, and cut rock crystal has been chosen for the eye of the new replica.