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.
January/February Contents | Gazette
Copyright 1999 The Pennsylvania
Gazette Last modified 1/5/99