THE CONSERVATION OF A PLASTIC MASK BY MARISOL
W. T. Chase
1 THE MASK AS RECEIVED
THE MASK is a life-size cast of a face, frontal, extending to just behind the cheekbones (Fig. 1). It is made entirely of a clear plastic, with the exception of the eyes, which are made from faded white roses. The roses are submerged below the surface of the plastic. The mask was mounted in a black, shiny, wooden box. While the mask was sitting on a shelf in the owner's house, it came loose from the wooden box and fell onto the floor, breaking diagonally across the bridge of the nose. The break extended from just above the proper left eye to just below the proper right eye, and ended at the top of the right cheekbone.
Plastic mask by Marisol. Condition as received in the laboratory.
The owner brought the mask in to the Freer Gallery of Art Technical Laboratory on March 5, 1973 for examination and possible repair. It looked like an interesting, almost insoluble problem, and for this reason we agreed to take it on. The break was in a very visible area on the mask; to be acceptable, the repair would have to be nearly invisible. It was obvious from the outset that a special repair method would have to be used.
We started experimental work on the mask simultaneously with attempts to find out anything about its method of manufacture or possible methods of repair. The artist who made it, Escobar Marisol, was, in 1973, selling through the Sidney Janis Gallery in New York. We sent letters to her through Sidney Janis and received no response. A member of our staff visited the gallery on a trip to New York and found out that the mask was quite old and had been sold by another gallery before Marisol began her association with Sidney Janis. One of the Janis Gallery workers asked Marisol about the mask and was not able to get any useful information. Marisol did not recall much about the mask, and she did not think that it could be fixed.