TREATMENT OF AN AMERICAN 19TH-CENTURY UPHOLSTERED CHAIR
CECELIA CHEWNING, & HAROLD F. MAILAND
4 TREATMENT AND EXHIBITION CONCERNS
The Cincinnati Art Museum has been involved in a major renovation of its second-floor galleries since early 1991. When it was determined that the Mitchell and Rammelsberg parlor furniture would be exhibited in the renovated space, treatment decisions became necessary. We began to ask questions and consider alternatives, including the following:
- Were all pieces of the furniture to be exhibited?
- What was the value of having the original upholstery—to show it to the public in a gallery setting or to document it on the furniture, remove it, and retain it for study purposes?
- What did we want the final “look” to be in a gallery? Did we want to present the furniture as it looks today, or did we want to show it as it would have looked on the Mitchell and Rammelsberg showroom floor when a customer selected it?
- Would we consider exhibiting some pieces with original upholstery and some pieces reupholstered?
- Would the original pieces continue to deteriorate if they were displayed?
- If we decided to reupholster, could we find fabrics similar to the original? What would be the cost of an exact reproduction of our jacquard fabric?
We investigated replacements for the jacquard, the most critical fabric to the character of the suite, but we found nothing close to the original in today's market. In the process of looking, we became more convinced of the value of the distinctive design of the original fabric to the whole project, so we also investigated having the fabric reproduced. A major fabric house estimated the cost at $26,250: $4,000 to cut the jacquard cards and $445 per yard of fabric, with a minimum order of 50 yards.
In an effort to explore treatment possibilities, the museum asked Harold F. Mailand to examine the suite and propose basic procedures that would clean and stabilize the fabric surfaces. Following consultation and discussion with him, other treatment options were apparent. The Cincinnati Art Museum agreed to sponsor an experiment with upholstery infill on a chair, matching as closely as possible the current appearance of the jacquard fabric.