Two Roman bronze ephebos from Pedro Abad

Factum Foundation and IAPH have initiated a collaborative framework to aid in the preservation of cultural heritage managed by the Andalusian Institute of Historical Heritage. The first of several planned recordings was the digitisation of the two Roman bronze ephebos from Pedro Abad (Cordoba). The project is part of the study carried out by IAPH inside their workshops in Seville, within the framework of the R&D and Conservation Program sponsored by Fundación Magtel. The study aims to learn more about this type of artwork and assist in the restoration process before the two sculptures return to Museo Arqueológico de Córdoba for display.

Detail of the Apollinean ephebos © Factum Foundation

The two sculptures from Pedro Abdad were recorded in high resolution at the end of July 2022 by Pedro Miró, Imran Khan and Ana Carrasco Huertas using photogrammetry and white-light structured scanning.

Finding bronze sculptures is usually considered exceptional since this type of material was often melted down for reuse in ancient times. It is even less common to find two examples belonging to the same place, in almost complete condition and without initial restorations, as was the case of the two Pedro Abad ephebos. They were luxury objects, used as mute servants for practical functions during evening banquets to carry lamps, trays, garlands or other objects – making the find even more exceptional due to the rarity of such finding.

Both pieces, one in Dionysian and one in Apollonian attitude, are dated to the period of the High Roman Empire, specifically between the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, and are made in bronze using the lost-wax casting technique, cast in parts that were later assembled and welded. The term ‘ephebos’ comes from Greek and refers to adolescent boys, which is why it is used to refer to this type of representation. On occasion, as in the case of the Dionysian ephebos, a younger age is represented.

The study of the two sculptures includes the analysis and identification of the different materials (copper, lead, mortar, etc.) and the use of other analytical techniques, such as gammagraphy or computerised tomography, which will obtain non-visible information without affecting the integrity of the pieces: discovering hidden cracks and determining the thickness of the metallic surface in any section are among the possibilities. The study will also include visual documentation, and possible digital restoration interventions, in addition to the dissemination and exhibition of the sculptures.

The high-resolution recording of both sculptures will aid the operations by offering high-quality documentation of their surface and allowing the study of the different concretions and alterations. Furthermore, the large deformations suffered by the pieces make their assembly difficult and having a digital model will help to analyse their positioning and re-assembly without the need to manipulate the different original pieces, which are in a very delicate state. It will also help design the internal structure to support the different pieces on a base.

The Dionysian piece, the most deteriorated of the two, will be subject to a more in-depth study that will analyse the distribution of the weights and the posture thanks to a 3D model, helping to determine the function of this sculpture and whether it was carrying an object. In the case of the Apollonian ephebos, thanks to the preservation of the hands, it is possible to know that it functioned as a candelabrum and carried a lamp.

The two Pedro Abad ephebos: the Apollinean (left) and Dionysian (right) © Junta de Andalucía

Imran Khan recording the Dionysian ephebos using photogrammetry © Ana Carrasco for Factum Foundation

Pedro Miró recording the Dionysian ephebos using a structured white-light scanner © Ana Carrasco for Factum Foundation

Detail of the structured white-light scanning process © Ana Carrasco for Factum Foundation

Ana Carrasco Huertas recording a fragment using a structured white-light scanner © Factum Foundation