Inside the Barnes Foundation’s Attempt To Fix A Broken Piece Of Ancient History

The New York Times takes readers inside the Barnes Foundation’s attempt to fix a Greek pyxis—an earthenware box from around 750 B.C.—that was broken in the museum sometime during the 1950s.

Margaret A. Little, senior conservator of objects, has been studying and working on the piece for more than a month now, removing weak adhesives and pieces of filler material used by earlier restorers, probably including one in the early 20th century, when the vessel made its way into the hands of a Parisian antiquities dealer.

“We have at least 75 percent of the original material of the vessel, which is really incredible,” Ms. Little said, sitting at a table with the lid of the pyxis fitted back together like a puzzle, its gaps filled with bright white dental plaster that will later be painted. Nearby lay the pieces for the next and one of the trickiest parts of the job — reattaching the four horses that adorn the lid, a figural motif thought perhaps to denote the wealth of the vessel’s owner.

When restored, officials hope to return it to the location in Gallery 17, where the late art collector Albert C. Barnes originally located it in his collection. The Barnes moved last year from its original location in Merion to its current facility on the Parkway.