The cleaning and conservation of Diana of the Hunt, a bronze sculpture by Anna Hyatt Huntington is currently under way in the Cummer Gardens.
The sculpture was a gift from Huntington to the Museum in 1961 when the museum first opened its doors. It is a recast of an iconic sculpture that depicts the mythical huntress Diana, a defender of the forest, protector of virgins and women, guardian of the weak and vulnerable, emblem of chastity, archetype of femininity and feminism, twin to Apollo, and lunar goddess. As is often the case, Diana is depicted here as a huntress standing on a sphere with a bow in her proper left hand and an arrow, now missing, aimed skyward. A hunting dog on its hind legs is at her side.
Through a grant provided by the Henry Luce Foundation, the Museum was able to conserve this sculpture in 2008. However, due to its close proximity to Interstate 95 and the Saint Johns River, the surface of the sculpture was not able to maintain the previous conservation treatment.
The Museum is preparing to open a new Sculpture Garden on the front lawn of the campus, where works from the permanent collection will be relocated. It was in preparing these works for outside conditions that a conservator reexamined the Diana of the Hunt sculpture. She proposed that an additional treatment was needed to clean the surface and to create a protective layer so that the sculpture would be able to withstand the outside elements.
After the decision was made to do the additional treatment, two conservators came out and worked on the sculpture last week. They determined that over the 50 years that the sculpture has been in the gardens that a “crust” has formed all over the sculpture preventing any previous maintenance from adhering.
Over the course of 3 days, the conservators removed multiple layers of wax and scrubbed the surface to remove about 70% of the “crust.” Underneath this layer of biological and fungal grime was a beautiful and pristine metal.
There is still more work to be done in order for Diana of the Hunt, to be complete. The conservators will be back in the fall to remove the remaining surface grime and to continue the restoration of the sculpture which includes a patinization process and many applications of hot and cold wax. Stay tuned for phase II of the conservation of this magnificent sculpture.