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Before & After (continued)

   The process of conserving each sculpture evolves as a collaboration between the conservation team and the curator. Virginia Naudé, chief sculpture conservator for Norton Art Conservation, the firm she founded in 1987, begins by examining the work and drawing up a proposal detailing needs and costs that is then reviewed by Jacovini, and results in a formal contract. First on the list is a pressurized water and detergent washing, to remove surface grime, bird guano, and other superficial elements. Some sculptures receive a follow-up cleaning in which an air shower of walnut shells finely ground into a powder (a technique first devised to clean aircraft and fine machinery) is sprayed onto the bronze surface at 35 pounds pressure per square inch, a process that lifts superficial corrosion products (such as Lennig's powdery white-green) and other chemical residues. Any specific concerns regarding the sculpture's individual problems are also addressed, including removal of graffiti, any necessary structural repairs, and sometimes reinforcement of lead fillings in seams formed during the casting and fabrication processes. Finally, a protective coating of wax is applied, often by heating the bronze surface and applying the wax -- which is absorbed by the metal, thus darkening the bronze. Alternatively, the substance can be applied to the cooled metal, which preserves the current color, as was the case with the imposing King Solomon, a 1963 work by Alexander Archipenko (gift of Mr. and Mrs. Jeffrey Loria), which did not require the intensity of cleaning and conservation as some of the older bronzes.

Pan with Sundial. Beatrice Fenton, 1938. (Right) the restored sculpture resides outside the Van Pelt Library; (left) before restoration.
Edgar Fahs Smith. R.Tait McKenzie, 1925. (Right) Sculpture after treatment, before being returned to Smith Walk; (left) waxing process.

 

   One of the few pieces that required what Naudé refers to as a restoration is the engaging Pan with Sundial, which resides in relative obscurity outside Van Pelt Library. Presented to the University in 1938 by Mrs. William Stansfield, "in loving memory" of her husband, C'02, the sundial's gnomon (the raised piece that casts the shadow) was lost somewhere along the way, rendering it non-functional. Jacovini's decision to have the gnomon, as an integral part of the sculpture, replaced resulted in a bit of research and, ultimately, some guesswork in the design detail, as old photographs of the piece depicted the gnomon from every angle.
   To keep things interesting, the project's span has overlaIpped the ongoing University construction. Two large sculptures had to be moved off-campus for cleaning and conservation, although each has since been restored to its original location on campus.
   The majestic seated figure of Edgar Fahs Smith, provost of the University from 1911 to 1920, sits outside Smith Walk, near the Roy & Diana Vagelos Laboratories of the Institute for Science and Advanced Technology. This was also done by R. Tait McKenzie, a doctor of medicine as well as a sculptor, who was director of physical culture at the University for many years. It was sculpted in 1925 (10 years after McKenzie's young Franklin) and donated by John C. Bell, C'1884. Smith is as dignified as young Franklin is ebullient. One can't help noticing the feet of each man, prominent in both sculptures: Franklin striding, letting no grass grow; Smith rooted among his books and oak leaves, left brogue trampling a gargoyle of ignorance.

 

Continued...

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