Bucker’s Kruzifixus Restored

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Thanks to a gift from Patrons Janet and Michael Feeley, the California Patrons have sponsored the restoration of the wooden sculpture “Kruzifixus” by German artist Gerhard Heinrich Bucker (1922-2008). The artist donated the work at the opening of the Vatican Museum of Contemporary Art Collection in 1973. Created in 1962, it was crafted during a period in the 1960s and 1970s when Bucker concentrated on the figure of Christ, resulting in numerous sculptures and drawings. The gilded body of Christ is secured to a dark oak cross, measuring approximately 5 ½ feet by 3 ½ feet. The golden body of Jesus emerges from the dark cross in the style of medieval crucifixes. The sculpture is simple and without much detail and the face is expressionless. This enhances the drama represented in the sculpture and is emblematic of the mature style of the artist.

The piece consists of two parts, the wooden cross and the body of Christ. The body, composed of multiple pieces with gold leaf applied over the entire corpus, is connected to the wooden cross by a bolt and a nut positioned between the shoulder blades of Christ and at the intersection of the two axes of the cross. The work was covered in layers of dust and was in a poor state of preservation due to changes in temperature and humidity. The cross exhibited oxidation typical of unprotected raw wood but did not have woodworm damage. The body had several small cracks and a fracture along the left shoulder of the chest, Gold leaf had detached from the surface, especially from both feet, The first step of the restoration dealt with detaching the sculpture of the body of Christ from the cross in order to complete an anoxic treatment.

Afterwards, restorer Stefano Tombesi proceeded with the removal of deposits and dust and began the consolidation of all lifted portions of the wood. Then he fixed the sculpture’s cracks with special glue and wood powder. The larger fissures were restored with modeled plaster and eventually treated with red bole before being gilded. The gilding of the work was performed using 24 K gold powder dissolved in a solution of water and rabbit glue, using brushes to apply the touch-ups. All the areas treated with this technique were subsequently burnished with agate stone in order to match their appearance with the existing gold surface of the work (which is fully burnished). The final phase of the restoration involved the application of a protective layer of dewaxed shellac resin in alcohol and the reattachment of the figure of Jesus to the Cross. The restored “Krucifixus” will once again reside in the Contemporary Art Collection.

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