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Decade-long restoration of masterpiece is complete

The restoration of Adoration of the Shepherds. Credit: Fitzwilliam Museum.

A Renaissance masterpiece is finally ready to go on show - after a decade-long restoration project by Cambridge experts.

The painstaking work on Sebastiano del Piombro's Adoration of the Shepherds has been carried out by a team at the Fitzwilliam Museum's Hamilton Kerr Institute.

Conservators had to forensically examine sections of the painting using microscopes to work out how the artist had layered paint and used colour.

The museum said the project was one of its biggest challenges.

An image of Mary before the restoration. Credit: Fitzwilliam Museum.
An image of Mary after the restoration. Credit: Fitzwilliam Museum.

"We have conserved over 3,000 pictures in the last 40 years at the Hamilton Kerr Institute, but the Sebastiano is one of our biggest projects. "Some might have argued to leave the painting as an archaeological relic, but I think we have made the right judgement to restore it so it can be appreciated as the masterpiece it is, aesthetically and historically.

"The scientific research that was conducted to aid our understanding of the technique of the artist has been key in being able to recreate it."

– Rupert Featherstone, Hamilton Kerr Institute director.
An image of Jesus before the restoration. Credit: Fitzwilliam Museum.
An image of Jesus after the restoration. Credit: Fitzwilliam Museum.

The work has been completed in time for the painting to go on display for the museum's 200th birthday. It will be the first time the masterpiece has been on show in 70 years.

Del Piombo was a contemporary of Michelangelo in Italy during the 16th century and struck up a close friendship with the artist shortly after he unveiled the start of his work on the Sistine Chapel.