The current activity of the Laboratory for Scientific Restoration of Sculpture and Semi-Precious Stones (LSRSSPS) is based on years of experience of preserving sculptures in Russia. The history of restoration of rarities of the Hermitage goes back almost 200 years and the first documentary evidence of cleaning and repairing museum statues was in 1812.In the second half of the 19th century, a special workshop was established, which at different times was headed by such famous artists as A.I. Terebenev, A.K. Belyayev and M.A. Chizhov. In the middle of the 20th century, I.V. Krestovskiy made a significant contribution to the definition of fundamental principles of sculpture restoring; he developed many techniques and technologies and put them into practice.
TThe Laboratory obtained its current status in the 1970s, when it was headed by M.N. Lebel, art restorer of the highest category, PhD in Art History (now – Senior Researcher of the Department of History and Restoration of Architectural Monuments of the State Hermitage Museum).Under her guidance, the Laboratory conducted research and experimental work, improved traditional restoration methods and introduced a number of new techniques. Many developments of M.N. Lebel in the field of restoration of stone and plaster sculptures still have not lost their relevance; they were developed in the practice of restorers and are part of the scientific and methodological fund of the Laboratory.
In the second half of the 20th century, a workshop for restoration of objects made of semi-precious stones was established as part of the Laboratory; the work was carried out by highly skilled experts I.P. Andreyev and O.F. Platonov. Currently, the Laboratory staff numbers six art restorers who restore exhibits from many scientific departments of the museum. These include sculpture, works of decorative and applied art, archaeological objects and architectural fragments. Working with such a variety of monuments requires an individual approach in defining the tasks, methods and techniques of restoration.
A significant part of the Hermitage collection of antique marble sculptures is the monuments that underwent restoration in the XVIII-XIX centuries. The task of restoration of such works is making is to make them exhibition-ready and to identify traces of previous restorations, which often leads to clarification of antique and restored elements.The nature of the heterogeneous fragments is documented in the process of compiling preservation descriptions and charts, which graphically present the antique part and later restoration additions to the exhibits. The restoration program usually consists of cleaning marble and subsequently filling connecting joints with mastic compound. All restoration additions of historic and artistic value are stored as part of the history of the antique sculptures.
A considerable number of works of decorative and applied art made of semi-precious stones is displayed in the permanent exhibition and kept in the collections of the State Hermitage Museum. When dealing with such works, modern conservation technology is combined with traditional methods of artistic stone treatment when the lost fragments are replaced with ones made of the original material.
Work of the Laboratory restorers to develop new techniques while referring to the historic technologies of artistic materials processing allows for diverse and complex conservation techniques. These techniques allow restorers to make exhibition-ready the works of sculpture and decorative and applied art located in the collections and in the exhibitions of the State Hermitage Museum.