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Treasured Marble Busts Return to the Replicas
Jessica Fiddes and Meghan Podimsky

After seven years off campus, three treasured sculptural busts recently returned to a fashion. The three sculptures, the originals of which have significant historical significance due to their age and provenance, were recreated using a composite concrete-type product. The original pieces, which were acquired in Italy by Luther Kountze, the investment banker who built Old Main as a summer house in the 1880s, and created a formal sculpture Garden in the 1890s, will be restored and ultimately displayed indoors to protect them from the elements.

Delbarton has enjoyed a longstanding partnership with Evergreene Architectural Arts, a respected architectural and art restoration firm. In June 2015, the team was asked by then-headmaster Br. Paul Diveny, OSB, to assess our historic Garden pieces. During the on-site assessment, the Evergreene team noticed the bust of Alexander the Great was in very poor condition, had been haphazardly repaired and was in dire need of protection. The team carefully removed the bust of Alexander from the Garden and got to work. This restoration commission led to their most recent installation of a replica of the Alexander bust and included two additional pieces that also were assessed as in danger: a bust of the Roman emperor Trajan and that of an unidentified Roman goddess.

Additionally, restoration of two South Tower niche 17th Century sculptures of standing female figures (both of which are headless) were stabilized, cleaned and re-set on their pedestals. Meanwhile, replicas of Alexander the Great, Trajan and the unidentified goddess are now located in the originals' places of honor in the Formal Garden.

The restoration process was no easy task. First, the three sculptures were carefully removed and safely transported to the Evergreene Studio in Forestville, Maryland. Next came the assessment where the Evergreene staff determined that the original busts could no longer safely withstand exposure to the outdoors. They desperately needed to be restored and, later, returned to Delbarton for indoor display. To return these pieces to the Formal Garden was foolhardy. Instead, Delbarton opted for Evergreene’s proposed solution:  to create replicas of the busts by casting precise molds to preserve the original forms. Replica busts were then poured and formed using a modern glass fiber-reinforced concrete product (GFRC). The originals of the three sculptures will remain in storage until they can be restored and displayed safely in a dry, temperature-controlled environment.

Allow us to reintroduce you to the three replica busts that now grace the Formal Garden...

Standing at 4 feet and 8 inches tall, the bust of Roman Soldier-Emperor Trajan below dates from the 17th Century. Trajan was a Roman emperor from 98 to 117 A.D., a successful soldier-ruler who led one of the greatest military and territorial expansions in the history of the Roman Empire.  The Delbarton bust of Trajan wears a cuirass (a piece of torso armor) with a gorgoneion argis, and a cloak buttoned on his left shoulder. The socle, or short plinth on which the bust rests, is inscribed 'Traia'. 

Next to Trajan sits the replica bust of Alexander the Great. With deep-set eyes and thickly curled hair, Alexander overlooks the Garden at almost five feet tall. Alexander the Great is renowned for his role as the ruler of the ancient Greek kingdom of Macedon. At age twenty, Alexander the Great assumed the throne of Macedon from his late father Philip II. He is legacy included strengthening his army, and preparing his soldiers for battle and, to this day, Alexander the Great remains a classical hero in the annals of history. Evergreene assessed this statue's condition to be in poor condition after over a century of exposure to the elements, as the pictures linked below so clearly demonstrate. Today, the bust of Alexander is installed in the Garden in replica form as the Evergreen team works to restore the original bust. To see before photos of the three busts, click here.

The final replica installment can be viewed in the North Tower of the Garden, a monumental marble bust representing an unknown Roman Goddess. Incredibly, this bust was previously appraised as having been hand carved from marble during the 1st Century A.D.  The sculpture stands 3 feet and 9 inches high, and the Goddess wears a chiton (tunic) and jeweled crown with her head turned to her left side. Again, the original bust will be restored and later displayed indoors. 

The Delbarton community salutes the Evergreene Architectural Arts team for its expert creation and installation of these three replicas busts while restoring and ultimately returning the original, remarkable sculptures for indoor display. The next time you are on campus, please take a moment to stroll through the Garden to admire our three replicas and the many other historical sculptures on display there. Enjoy some photos from this installation...