A restoration project of the 1907 statue of the poet Homer at the University of Virginia is nearing completion.
In January, the university police department received a report of damage to the statue. A lyre, held by Homer’s student guide, had broken off.
The lyre was never missing, according to university spokesman Wes Hester. University police recovered it at the base of the statue. No one was ever charged with vandalism, Hester said.
Contract workers are about to finish restoring the piece to the statue, which was originally sculpted by Moses Jacob Ezekiel for Amherst College.
“This is good news that the university is repairing the statue of Homer, which is not just an historic monument at UVa but one dear to the students and faculty in the Department of Classics who study Homer’s poems in Cocke Hall, which is adjacent to the statue,” said John Miller, a classics professor.
People often climb on the statue, and Mark Kutney, a conservator with the university, guessed that decades of people grabbing the lyre to pull themselves up, along with rain, corroded the metal joining the lyre to the rest of the statue.
“It makes sense that someone tried to grab it and it just broke off,” he said.
When conservators began checking over the statue, they realized that several other pieces were corroded.
“It’s over 100 years old, and there were just parts that needed to be repaired,” Kutney said.
Workers threaded bronze rods through the pieces, tying them together. To avoid marring the outside of the statue, they used soft bronze studs at the joints so that the different pieces would melt together. Then, they do a minimal amount of cosmetic work on the surface of the statue, so that the join is not visible.
The work was done by a contractor who has repaired other UVa statues. Several statues repeatedly need help; it’s natural as they age, Kutney said.
“They’re old, but I would hate for anyone to get hurt if they grab on a corroded piece,” he said.
Heather Snowden, a student who is president of the university’s Classics Club, said she learned the statue would be restored on Wednesday, at a club event planned to celebrate Homer’s birthday (the Ionian poet was likely born around 800 BCE, but no one knows the exact date, and the club picked Sept. 25).
“I found out the lyre was back after we had planned our Homer’s birthday event,” she said. “A happy coincidence, but a coincidence nonetheless.”