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Subject: Bernard Rabin, 86, Art Restorer

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Date Posted: March 30, 2003 5:38:12 EDT

Bernard Rabin, an American art restorer who refurbished the Brumidi fresco inside the Capitol dome in Washington and helped save many of the artworks in Florence, Italy, after devastating floods in 1966, died on Monday in Boynton Beach, Fla. He was 86.

The cause was complications from kidney dialysis, said his granddaughter Jennifer Rabin.

Mr. Rabin restored the ceiling of the Library of Congress as well as innumerable masterpieces for the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The restoration of the Capitol fresco "The Apotheosis of George Washington," by Constantino Brumidi (1865) was completed in 1988.

He restored a White House portrait of Andrew Jackson at the request of President John F. Kennedy and worked for private collectors, including Nelson A. Rockefeller and Norton Simon. Mr. Rabin was also conservator to the Newark Museum and the Montclair Museum in New Jersey.

Mr. Rabin led the American team of restoration experts dispatched to Florence after the disastrous November 1966 floods, which devastated artworks in the Uffizi galleries and elsewhere. He was credited with having saved a priceless collection of early musical instruments that had become waterlogged.

Mr. Rabin relied on X-rays and ultraviolet light to examine artworks before applying fresh paint, resins or varnish. Part of his work, he once remarked, was to be aware that additional restoration might be needed decades later so a restorer had to be careful to ensure that whatever he did could also be undone by future conservators using newer techniques.

Mr. Rabin taught conservation and restoration at Princeton, where he was also conservator of the university's art collection.

Born on Nov. 1, 1916, in the Bronx, Mr. Rabin studied at Newark State Teachers College, now Kean University, but was expelled for exhibiting a nude painting. Later the college awarded him an honorary doctorate.

In 1936 he opened a Newark art gallery, the Cooperative Gallery, with Nathan Krueger. It specialized in American artists like Reginald Marsh, John Sloan and Joseph Stella.

Mr. Rabin studied art restoration with Sheldon and Caroline Keck, among America's best-known conservators, at their school in Brooklyn.

He is survived by his wife, the former Dorothy Bressel; two sons, Sandy, of Mountain Lakes, N.J., and Stuart, of Davie, Fla.; two daughters, Michelle, of Mountain Lakes, and Susan Mason, of Davie; and three grandchildren.

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