INTERPRETATION OF ANCIENT ARTISTRY: CONSERVATION OF A GOLD WREATH FROM THE FOURTH CENTURY B.C.
JEFFREY P. MAISH
Following the evaluation of the wreath, the treatment progressed with the reattachment of loose floral elements, repair of damaged or weakened areas, and straightening of severely tangled areas. The orientation of some leaves and flowers was also changed to more closely approximate “botanical” realism. Finally, bending was reduced on several leaves and branches. In general, however, the treatment was restrained and minimal.
Floral elements were replaced in a manner consistent with the proposed installation of the artifact. Although the front of the wreath was predominant, the flowers were distributed to logically fill in depleted areas. The idea was to create not only greater horizontal symmetry or balance but also vertical balance. The options to emphasize the front only for display or to distribute the flowers randomly were rejected as conflicting with the underlying order to the wreath.
Following the survey, 54 detached flowers were reattached to create a better balance in each quadrant of the wreath. The floral elements first were assembled and secured to a foam block. Each assembly was numbered by placing an acid-free label inside the hemispherical support of each flower. These numbers were entered into the treatment documentation to clearly identify elements added in the course of the treatment. The final assemblies were transferred to the wreath and seated on a coil in the wire. In order not to stress or break the strip-twisted wires, the final securing bend generally continued an existing bend in the wire. In several instances, torn foil elements were repaired using Acryloid B-72 (50% in acetone).
Bends in several branches were reduced. This process was complicated in areas where tubing had cracked and collapsed. As it was not possible to reach the interior of the wreath tube to support the tube walls, reshaping had to be accomplished externally. Instead, a hole of the approximate outside diameter of the gold tubing was drilled through small pliers, the mouth of which was cushioned with tape to prevent scratching. Then the pliers were gently crimped and carefully “walked” up the bend in the tube. The hole in the pliers offered sufficient support for the outer wall of the gold tubing by distributing the forces more evenly. Reducing bends served to bring several branches nearer to their original heights. Loose branches were reattached to the nearest spike location. A plastic dowel inserted in a rear break in the main branch tube was also secured with Acryloid B-72 (50% in acetone).
Surface cleaning was confined to the removal of loose lint material. Several leaves had calcareous deposits, which were left in place. Straightening of leaves was confined to the use of finger pressure. Each leaf had a central “V” contour, and no attempt was made to press or burnish the leaf to obtain a perfect surface free of blemishes. Individual wires and leaves were untangled and raised to an upward orientation. Several leaves attached to the main wreath tube had been pressed up into the wreath probably by the continual laying of the wreath on a flat surface. The orientation of attachment suggested a downward orientation, so these leaves were bent slightly down. These leaves were further protected by displaying the wreath on an elevated mount.