This is a story from the New York Times of October 9, 2002, by Celestine Bohlen.
A 15th-century marble statue of Adam by the Venetian sculptor Tullio Lombardo crashed to the ground in the Velez Blanco Patio at the Metropolitan Museum of Art sometime Sunday evening, scattering its arms, legs and an ornamental tree trunk into dozens of pieces. The statue's fall--"a museum's nightmare"--was confirmed yesterday morning by museum officials, who said they had delayed an announcement for a day while a preliminary investigation took place. The indoor patio, originally located in a castle in Spain, was screened off to the public yesterday as curators combed the tile floor for fragments. The museum barred news photographers from taking pictures, even from the balconies above.
Harold Holzer, the museum's chief spokesman, said the museum has now tentatively concluded that the 6-foot-3-inch statue fell to the ground when one side of the 4-inch-high base of its pedestal apparently buckled, tipping over both the pedestal and statue. "We are reasonably certain that it collapsed inexplicably but on its own," Mr. Holzer said. The investigation is continuing, he added, but vandalism had been initially ruled out since there was no evidence of the statue itself having been struck or pushed.
Philippe de Montebello, director of the Metropolitan, described the statue's collapse as a "tragic fluke accident" and "about the worst thing that could happen" to a museum. But he added that when the restoration was complete, the statue would return whole to its public. "The figure will stand again on a solid pedestal, and frankly only the cognoscenti will know," he said. The smashed statue was discovered at 9 p.m. Sunday, three and a half hours after closing time. "No one heard a crash," Mr. Holzer said. "A guard making a routine patrol saw the statue and the pedestal down and alerted his supervisor." A conservator, Jack Soultanian Jr., was immediately summoned Sunday night.
Curators yesterday were still collecting and numbering the pieces of marble strewn on the patio floor, which was cordoned off by tape and string, much like a crime scene but without the police. Most of the pieces came from the statue's arms and legs, as well as from the decorative tree trunk, intertwined with a serpent and a grapevine, on which the figure was leaning. "Luckily, the head and the torso are the least damaged," said James Draper, the Henry R. Kravis curator of European sculpture. "The features of the face are legible, and suffered only minor losses, mostly scratches." Mr. Draper said that one leg was broken into six large pieces, but that other parts had been smashed into smaller bits. "There was some pulverizing," he said. By midday yesterday Mr. Holzer said that the museum's conservation staff was more hopeful about the chances of putting Adam back together. "Our conservators believe that the prognosis for a good restoration are better than we had hoped," he said. In an initial statement the museum said the restoration would require one to two years.
As the causes of the crash were being investigated, the museum inspected other pedestals, including those beneath the other six statues in the Velez Blanco Patio, among them another figure by Lombardo (1455-1532), known as the "Young Warrior." The pedestal beneath the Adam was described as four feet high, and about two feet deep, made of medium density plywood, packed in layers but hollow inside. The bottom of the pedestal rested upon the square four-inch-high base, of which one side apparently gave way under pressure.
The statues in the patio were given new pedestals in May 2000 when the patio was reopened after a three-year renovation that involved laying antique tiles on the floor that better suited the stone balustrades and columns of the 16th-century patio. The patio, a bequest of George Blumenthal in 1941, was installed at the Met in 1964.
Dated 1490-95, the "Adam," which came to the museum in 1936, is considered a significant piece of Italian sculpture. It was originally made for the tomb of a Venetian doge, Andrea Vendramin. "It is of incalculable historic importance," Mr. Draper said. "It is the first monumental nude of the Renaissance, which followed closely the idealism of ancient Roman antiquities."
The statue and the tomb were initially located in the church Santa Maria dei Servi in Venice, but both were later moved to the church of Santi Giovanni e Paolo. Besides its strong classical references, the statue is noted for the purity of its marble, its smooth carving and its elegant hand, which held an apple, signifying temptation. The serpent and the grapevine on the tree trunk were allusions to the fall and redemption of man.