By Steve Tawa
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A masterpiece greeting visitors at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the statue of Diana, is getting a coat of gold to restore the figure to her Gilded Age beauty.
The 13-foot tall work by Augustus Saint-Gaudens that commands the museum’s Great Stair Hall has been holding watch there since 1932.
The nude Diana was originally mounted atop the tower of Madison Square Garden in New York City, in 1893, as a weathervane. The original gold coating wore off due to its exposure to the elements.
Her current gray-green surface is a copper underlayer, but thanks to a gift from the Bank of America, the regilding process will give her a gold leaf coat, restoring the graceful Diana to her original splendor as she balances on her left tiptoe.
Diana is the most famous work of Saint-Gaudens, in part because of the scandal surrounding it that was later described in E.L. Doctorow’s novel, Ragtime.
“Augustus Saint-Gaudens is, in my opinion, the greatest sculptor in the US working in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and one of the great modern sculptors of all time,” museum CEO Timothy Rub tells KYW Newsradio.
The four-month project will be well documented. Each step of the conservation process will be monitored by a webcam, so you can follow Diana’s restoration on the museum’s web site.