The marble group On Pan and Daphnis, representing the goat-legged god Pan teaching a beautiful young boy to play the panpipes has been referred, ever since its discovery in the 16th century, to the sculptor Heliodorus of Rhodes from the 2nd Century BC.
The good fortune enjoyed by the group in antiquity, due to the taste for works of erotic and bucolic themes characteristic of the Hellenistic age, is proved by the existence of other replicas, one of which is at the Naples Archaeological Museum and another in the Ludovisi collection in Rome. The sculptor has captured the moment when Pan seems to barely refrain from enfolding the young shepherd in his lusty embrace while Daphnis, intent on playing, looks aloof in his candor and innocence, seemingly unaware of his charm and of the god’s longing.
The Uffizi sculpture, exhibited in the Third Corridor, is of great artistic level, but before the restoration its formal quality and overall legibility had been seriously impaired by the dirt and dust deposited on the marble surface over decades. The brown patina applied at the end of the XVIII Century to cover fractures and integrations, and make all the statues chromatically uniform as if part of the corridor architecture, had become over time thicker and darker owing to deposits of pollutants, hiding completely the details of the modeling and even flattening the workmanship differences between the god’s feral, brawny body and the delicate tenderness of the youth.
No restoration work had been made on the sculpture for many decades. With this intervention the surfaces were cleaned by swabbing with deionized water and the application of patches with an ammonium carbonate solution, finishing with demineralized water applied with cotton swabs. Old fillings with gesso putty, that in some places were starting to damage the marble, were removed and replaced with less aggressive materials. The right hand of Daphnis – a modern integration – was consolidated by injecting acrylic resin.
All the various stages of the complex restoration have been supplemented with detailed graphic and photographic documentation, that will allow further studies on this important specimen of ancient sculpture.