CONSERVATION OF SCENIC WALLPAPERS: SAUVAGES DE LA MER DU PACIFIQUE
2 THE SAN FRANCISCO SET OF DUFOUR WALL PAPERS
FEW SETS of the Cook papers have survived intact. The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco were fortunate to acquire eighteen panels of the twenty-panel set in 1977 for placement in its new American Galleries. Other existing sets have suffered considerable damage during the past 170 years. Alteration to fit specific room dimensions, fading of color as a result of long exposure to intense light, accumulation of surface soiling, and mechanical damage occurring in hanging or removal are not uncommon maladies. By comparison, the Musuem's newly acquired papers were in remarkably good condition. Only two, numbers 14 and 15, had ever been substantially trimmed or affixed to a wall surface. The remaining panels have retained the full height and grandeur of Charvet's design, distinguishing this set as a unique example. However, specific problematic conditions did exist upon acquisition, and major conservation treatment was required before installation could occur.
In February of 1977 the Cook papers were brought to the Museum's graphic arts conservation laboratory for examination and treatment. Since the American Galleries were to open in June we knew that work would have to proceed rapidly if the installation deadline was to be met. There were times when completion of the project seemed an impossible task. The sheer size and number of the paper panels created problems at every turn. Compounding this, almost no precedent for the conservation of scenic wall-papers was available either in the literature or to be gleaned through consultation with other conservators. Except for a concurrent project at Hawaii's Pacific Regional Conservation Center which generated an exchange of helpful information, most of the conservation methodology had to be formulated as the treatment progressed.