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Tuesday, May 17 • 10:00am - 10:30am
(Wooden Artifacts) The ABCs of a Monumental Frame: Analysis, Bronze Paint & Chelators

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This paper focuses on the technical examination and the conservation treatment of an 18th century English carved and gilded frame of monumental size. The project is exemplary in that results of the study of 25 cross sections are compiled and a protocol is developed for large-scale gilding conservation including bronze powder paint removal. Cross sectional analysis and an intense examination confirm the presence of both water and oil gilding - the two main gilding techniques employed in 18th century England and described in contemporary literature. In Summer 2014 a generous friend of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston lent (and later donated) to the museum a large altarpiece painting by American born painter Benjamin West “Devout Men Taking the Body of Saint Stephen” from 1776. Its frame, original to the painting, is an exquisite example of a Carlo-Maratta frame. It is made of long individual pieces of wooden molding skillfully carved with complimenting repeating patterns assembled together, on the same frame molding, to appear as one unit. The frame showed two generations of gilding under a layer of corroded bronze powder paint. To aid in understanding the frame’s history and the frame’s original gilding scheme an extensive technical examination was undertaken. This involved taking 25 samples of representative areas of the different molding elements. One of the major questions was to determine which areas had been originally water-gilded or oil-gilded. In order to better understand cross sections of the frame, sample boards of water- and oil-gilding were examined too. It was found out that burnished water-gilt areas were skillfully placed next to matte oil-gilt areas in a pattern to maximize the effect of the gilding on the frame as a whole. The other most interesting and challenging aspect of the project was the removal of darkened and heavily oxidized bronze powder paint. Extensive tests with a wide range of both polar and unpolar solvents, and solvent blends were executed. Gels were made of promising solvents. Unfortunately there was no solvent or solvent blend that successfully removed the bronze powder without damaging the second generation of oil-gilding underneath. Since the binder could not be solubilized, methods were investigated to target the metal powder itself. A series of chelator gel recipes were tested before one with EDTA as the acting ingredient with a pH of 8 was chosen. This paper will discuss the problems of removing bronze paint over oil-gilding and the different application techniques and methods used to reduce corroded paint. The project’s procedure is exemplary for large scale gilding conservation and helps to inform colleagues in a field that often times is overlooked in the museum community.

Speakers
avatar for Allison Jackson

Allison Jackson

Frames & Gilding Conservator, Allison Jackson
Allison Jackson began gilding at age 12 in her mother's conservation studio, Harvard Art. She received a BA in Studio Art from the University of Vermont in 2002 and subsequently trained with a master carpenter in Hawaii. In 2006 she was hired by the Museum of Fine Arts to catalogue and conserve their frame collection prior to the opening of their American Wing. In more recent years she readied the frames at the Harvard Art Museums’ Straus... Read More →
AL

Adeline Lutts

Conservation Engineer, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
ADELINE LUTTS received her B.A. in Studio Arts from Smith College in 2005 where she began her study of conservation with the Smith College Museum of Art. She worked as a frame conservator at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and took classes in chemistry and woodworking before establishing herself as a contract conservator of frames and furniture. She has recently rejoined the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston as a Conservation Engineer in the objects... Read More →
avatar for Carola Schueller

Carola Schueller

Furniture Conservator, Schueller Conservation Service
Carola Schueller graduated from the University of Applied Sciences and Arts in Hildesheim with a German Diploma in Conservation of Furniture and Wooden Objects. Prior to graduate school, she trained as a cabinet maker and worked as a conservation trainee in museums and in private practice workshops in Germany. After graduation, Carola was a Sherman Fairchild Fellow at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. Subsequently, she was employed as a... Read More →


Tuesday May 17, 2016 10:00am - 10:30am
Room 514


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