Almost a decade after the reopening of the Bode Museum, a masterpiece goes back on display to complete the Venetian Gallery. Produced around 1530/40 and measuring 81 x 107 centimetres, the terracotta relief of the Virgin and Child framed by Saints, a so-called Sacra Conversazione, by Jacopo Tatti, known as Jacopo Sansovino, is not only central to the collection of Venetian art, it is also a key work in the museum’s collection as a whole. The complex and painstaking restoration, which brought the relief back to life, was undertaken by Bodo Buczynski, the long-serving head of the restoration and conservation department, as his last major project before his retirement in January 2015.
Trained in Florence and steeped in the Florentine aesthetic, Sansovino shaped sixteenth-century Venetian sculpture like no other artist. To mark the long-awaited presentation of his relief - hidden from public view for two decades - some changes were made to the Venetian Gallery which is situated on the corner of the Kupfergraben and the railway overpass. The Bode-Museum’s outstanding ensemble of works by Sansovino has no equal anywhere else in the world.
Sansovino’s terracotta relief forms part of the original holdings of the collection. It was acquired for the Berlin museums as early as 1841 - together with a sizable group of other works from Venice - by Gustav Friedrich Waagen, the director of the Gemäldegalerie at the time. Partially gilded and painted to resemble marble, the relief is believed to have served as an altarpiece in a Venetian church. In Berlin it was installed in the basement of the Altes Museum before going on display at the Kaiser Friedrich Museum (today’s Bode Museum). After the Second World War it remained on the Museum Island.