The Paragone and the conservation of European sculpture: Considerations on compensation

Jack Soultanian

Abstract

The on-going debate during the Renaissance as to which was the higher art form– painting or sculpture– known as the Paragone, influenced the ultimate historic preeminence of painting. This view, held to our own day, was particularly devastating to sculpture during the 19th century, when, with the great exception of the Antique, the appreciation of sculpture had reached a nadir.

The rise in the 19th century of the awareness and discipline of the conservation of works of art focused, consequently, on painting, and for sculpture, on the Antique. While previous centuries understood the conservation of antique sculpture to mean completion, the 19th century saw an increasing interest in the ancient fragment itself unencumbered by additions. This new approach to the conservation of ancient sculpture came to be applied as well to the conservation of sculpture from later periods as the interest in sculpture, in general, grew toward the end of the century.

The avenue of choosing not to add lost elements in European sculpture is challenged by a more balanced consideration of when such additions may be appropriate.