That's great news: the Apollo of Veio shines again after cleaning that has restored the Etruscan masterpiece’s original colours and shed light on techniques used 2,500 years ago. The restoration, unveiled on Thursday at a Rome museum, was the first in decades on the terracotta statue of the Greek god. The statue was discovered shortly after the beginning of excavations in Veio, once a flourishing centre of Etruscan civilisation just north of Rome, which was conquered by the Romans in 396 BC. Together with other statues, fragments of which have also been recovered, it decorated a temple in honour of Apollo.
Pieces of the sculpture were recovered in 1916 near Rome. Three years later the fragments - about 30, including one single big piece of the head, shoulders and torso - were pieced together to form a statue, although the arms and other parts are missing. Since then, the Apollo has undergone minor cleanups, but never a thorough restoration.
Going into the work, the statue’s structure was stable, but its surface was opaque and covered in heavy layers of dirt, dust, wax and protective coatings applied over the years, officials said.
The restorers stripped the layers with a technique that included the use of distilled water, alcohol and other delicate removers. The statue is now brighter and more colourful. The god’s tunic is light brown and his robe is of a slightly different, more pinkish shade, edged in darker brown. Apollo’s smiling face is reddish, in stark contrast with the light colours of his tunic and the grey of his braids. The six-month, 150,000-euro (185,000 dollars) restoration was also used to learn about the materials and decorating or colouring techniques used to create works of art in the Etruscan period. All the colours, for example, were obtained mixing two minerals alone in varying quantities.