JAIC 1993, Volume 32, Number 2, Article 7 (pp. 165 to 176)
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Journal of the American Institute for Conservation
JAIC 1993, Volume 32, Number 2, Article 7 (pp. 165 to 176)

THE HISTORY, TECHNOLOGY, AND CONSERVATION OF ARCHITECTURAL PAPIER MÂCHÉ

JONATHAN THORNTON


ABSTRACT—The use of paper or paper fiber in the production of three-dimensional objects seems to have closely followed the spread of papermaking itself. Brief notice of this ancient history is followed by description of papier mâché as an architectural material from the 17th to the early 19th century, focusing on the mid-18th century, when it appears to have been used most extensively. The practice of the London craftspeople who produced sculptural detail in this medium for domestic use and export are examined as illuminated by the technical examination of paper mâché in the Miles Brewton House of Charleston, South Carolina, dating from the 1760s. Discussion of the Brewton house material includes the complete rococo-style ceilling in the parlor, the reconstruction of gilded molding based on fragments from the drawing room found in a rat's nest during restoration, and a bas-relief of Apollo and a gilded border in the stair hall that was damaged but largely complete. Restoration of original decorative schemes required the replication of more than 150 ft of gilded and burnished cotton rag paper molding based on the conserved rat's nest fragments and the replication of gilded and ungilded moldings from the stair hall both to infill losses in extant molding and to replace missing molding for which physical and documentary evidence existed. The research required to duplicate this forgotten art is described as well as the modeling, carving, and mold-making techniques eventually used in accomplishing this extensive retoration project. Conservation methods used on existing 18th-century material are also detailed, focusing on lightweight materials chosen to support and reconstruct the Apollo relief.

Article Sections:

1. INTRODUCTION
2. HISTORY AND DEFINITION
3. WORK CARRIED OUT IN THE MILES BREWTON HOUSE
4. REPLICATION OF OTHER STAIR-HALL ORNAMENT
5. CONCLUSIONS
a: Materials , References , Author Information
Entire Article

Copyright © 1993 American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works