A caryatid is a sculpture of a woman used to replace a supporting pillar and at the Acropolis Museum in Athens they are restoring the building’s original caryatids in situ rather than removing them to a workshop.
As a result, visitors can watch the work in progress, as years of grime and pollution are removed using laser technology to leave the statues clean and white again.
Konstantinos Vassiliadis, the head of the restoration programme explained the work is painstaking and time consuming: “It takes around 6-8 months to renovate each caryatid, depending on how much work each sculpture requires. The position of the sculpture, and the make-up of the black surface layer determines the time frame.”
The shape of the caryatid is printed out on paper. Every piece is a different colour, showing the area restorers cover every day. It is kind of work diary. The restorers leave what is known as a “witness”, that is a small uncleaned patch as an archive of the grime removed.
Dimitrios Pandermalis, the President of the Board of Directors at the Acropolis Museum, remarked: “The caryatids have survived fires, wars, bombings and many disasters. In the 70s it was decided to transfer the statues to the old museum of the Acropolis and they were placed in a nitrogen chamber to preserve them. Then they were transfered to the new Acropolis Museum where visitors admire them as well as the modern technology we are using to clean and repair them.”