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The stellar collection of Italian medieval sculpture in The Metropolitan Museum of Art and The Cloisters began with the acquisition in 1908 of a Romanesque column statue; today the Museum's holdings comprise more than seventy works dating from the ninth to the late fifteenth century. The earlier pieces evidence traces of Roman and Early Christian influences, while the later ones presage the forms and themes of the Renaissance. The birthplaces of these works range from Sicily to Venice; some typify local styles, others illustrate the intense artistic exchanges taking place within Italy and between Italy and the wider world. The majority of works in the collection are made of marbles and other stones that were either excavated from local quarries or salvaged from antique ruins close to the carvers' workshops-some of these still retain their Latin inscriptions.
Technological advances of the last decades have made it possible to determine more precisely the materials and techniques from which works of art are made, the history of their alteration, and the mechanisms of their deterioration. Using such techniques, scholars have been able to ascertain, for example, that sculptures previously thought to be modern works carved in the medieval manner were in fact completely authentic.
This innovative catalogue represents a watershed in the study of sculpture: a collaborative dialogue between an art historian and a conservator-between art history and art science-that deepens our understanding of the object we see, while illuminating its elusive, enigmatic history.
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