This Florentine statue is the best existing replica of a rare statuary type representing the god of medicine Asclepius. Originally, the god was flanked by another figure, most probably his daughter Hygieia, as proved by the imprint of a part of a hand leaning on the god’s left shoulder. The monumental Florentine sculpture, already part of the Gallery collections at the beginning of the XVIII century, and of great interest for scholars ever since, seems traceable to the late II century AD and reproduces with great care and sensibility the strength of the original Greek masterpiece datable to the end of the V Century BC.
The recent intervention of restoration and conservation made it possible, first of all, to ascertain the pertinence of the head to the body, questioned by some scholars. The irregular fracture line, evidenced at the base of the neck after removal of the old putty, perfectly coincides with the line of the bust, showing that the head, probably detached already in ancient times, was simply reattached to the body to which it belonged. The removal of dust deposits and traces of the ancient patina has given full legibility to the crystalline structure of the marble, that proved to be an excellent Greek, likely insular, marble. Besides cleaning the surface, the old putty was replaced having lost its function in many places, such as in the outstretched finger of the right hand that was coming apart. The restoration work, masterly conducted by Gabriella Tonini and Louis Pierelli of Nike Restorers, also offered the opportunity for a thorough photographic campaign of the sculpture (including the rear, never photographed before), and an accurate mapping of modern integrations. Among these, the left hand, from a late XVI- early XVII-century restoration, was particularly interesting. It holds some leaves, of which shape and characteristics were discernible only after being cleaned, thus revealing a detail so far unknown. Its lanceolate aspect, the type of ribs and the size have made it recognizable as a gentiana asclepiadea, a medicinal plant well known since the Middle Ages, clearly reputed by the Renaissance restorer to be the best possible attribute for the god of medicine.