In November, after five months, scaffolding came down to reveal Diana’s new coat of 23.4-karat red gold. It was the first regilding since her days on East 26th Street. In a stroke, the sculpture had been transformed from a patinated relic back into a dazzling, daring emblem of the confident young metropolis of New York.
“Looking at it as a Greek antiquity was totally past the point of what the sculptor and architect wanted,” said Andrew Lins, the senior conservator of decorative arts and sculpture at the museum. “This is really about the Gilded Age.”
Visitors are certainly conscious of the sculpture. One middle-aged man on the staircase assumed Diana’s pose for a snapshot: left foot tiptoe, right leg slightly raised, left arm extended, right hand gripping an imaginary arrow shaft.
“It refreshes something people have been walking by for years,” said Kathleen Foster, the senior curator of American art.
Ms. Foster said it would have been unthinkable for the museum to regild the sculpture when it arrived, during the Great Depression. The idea was considered in the mid-1980s, she said, but neither time nor resources were at hand. Mr. Lins said regilding had not been a high priority because the statue itself, made of molded copper sheets soldered together, was in acceptable condition.
What permitted the regilding was a grant from the Bank of America’s Art Conservation Project. Museum officials and a public relations representative of the bank would not disclose the amount. (The recent regilding of the Sherman Monument by Saint-Gaudens in Grand Army Plaza in Manhattan cost $500,000 but was far more complex.)
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