15th Century Statue of Adam
15th Century Statue of Adam
FEA Model of statue base - investigating cause of collapse
FEA Model of Statue Base

Tullio Lombardo’s Adam is one of the greatest Venetian 15th-century works of art. The sculpture was carved around 1490 for the tomb of Doge Andrea Vendramin in the Church of Santa Maria dei Servi, Venice and it was originally paired with a now lost companion of Eve. It is the first monumental classical nude carved since antiquity and was admired by both Michelangelo and Canova.

Described as a “tragic, freak accident” one section on the base of its reinforced plywood pedestal apparently buckled, and the statue of Adam crashed to the floor. O’Donnell Consulting performed a forensic investigation into the cause of the collapse of the base structure.

The panels were constructed of medium density overlay plywood, (MDO). Staples were used for the joints, as in most pedestals, and glue was used for the shear connections where appropriate. This design easily carries the bending loads due to the horizontal offset for the kick space. Such bending loads are carried as lateral loads in the staples connecting the ballast plate support to the front and back panels.

Two 18 gauge staples are used to connect the front panel to the front end of the support plate, and two 18 gauge staples are used to connect the back panel to the back end of the support plate on each leg. These staples carry the bending as a lateral load which such staples are intended to carry. The 18 gauge staples, which were used are the largest staples typically employed in pedestal and cabinet construction, and are also utilized in pedestals carrying much higher loads. Finite element analysis of the pedestal determined that the failure was due to a long-term overload in excess of the design capacity of the pedestal.


O’Donnell Consulting performs forensic investigations of structural collapses, industrial accidents and product liability issues.

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