PAUL VAN DUIN, DOMINIQUE VAN LOOS-DRECHT, AND DAVID WHEELER, EDS. HISTORIC INTERIORS—CONSERVATION, RESTORATION AND RECONSTRUCTION: PROCEEDINGS, FIFTH INTERNATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON WOOD AND FURNITURE CONSERVATION. Amsterdam: Stichting Ebenist, 2002. 86 pages, softcover, Euros 17.50. Available from Rijksmuseum, Department of Furniture Conservation, email@example.com. ISBN 90-806960-1-3.
This is the publication of 15 papers presented at the Fifth International Symposium on Wood and Furniture Conservation held in 2000 at the Rijksmuseum. Many of the papers present a discussion of whole room interiors, though some focus on a specific element or tradition of decoration. In other papers, the range of subjects includes the analysis of a japanned-type decorative finish, the use of reproductions in museum galleries, and the technology behind the optical effects of the perspectiefjes of Antwerp cabinets. Most of the papers can be regarded as highly specific. However, there are three sets of companion papers in which a specific topic is presented in one paper and the topic is expanded into more general themes in the companion paper. These are perhaps the most successful written iterations of the presented papers because they afford both a penetrating discussion of a single topic as well as more general points of reference. However, the variety of subjects, including both European and non-European materials, compiled in this publication is fascinating and affords a proximal and thematic interrelation between decorative traditions that are otherwise largely unrelated.
In his introduction, Paul van Duin comments that between the Fourth and Fifth International Symposia on Wood and Furniture Conservation, the audience grew both in number and in international representation. At the Fifth Symposium, speakers came from 10 countries and 4 continents, thereby truly meeting the symposium's international characterization. This impressive subscription likely reflects in part not only an interest among conservators of wood and furniture but also among conservators in other disciplines—as well as scientists and art historians—in the very compelling topic of the preservation of historic interiors. Possibly no other area must of necessity integrate so many different conservation disciplines as these interior projects, which are comprised of diverse media. Moreover, as many historic interiors, even in museums, function as spaces into which visitors are invited to enter, the subsequent wear and tear on these spaces result in an ongoing need for preservation attention. The authors in Historic Interiors address both the topic of diverse media and the demands of exhibition (and sometimes use) as they relate to the preservation of interior furnishings and decorative finishes. This latter point is well demonstrated by a pair of companion papers on a Spindler marquetry floor written by Uta-Christiane Begemann and Henning Schulze. In these papers, the authors discuss the history and technology of the marquetry floor in the New Palace in Potsdam built by Frederick the Great of Prussia. The authors note that the “marquetry floor is the most prestigious decoration in the [Green Paneled] Room” (p. 29). Plans to open the room to the public require that a noninterventional walkway or another method of viewing the room needs to be “chosen carefully” (p. 38).
The subject of visitor impact on the preservation of historic interiors is investigated by Christopher M. Swan in his paper on balancing the use of period objects with reproductions in the living history museum of Colonial Williamsburg. In introducing his topic, the author provides a system of nomenclature that distinguishes reproductions from copies, fakes, forgeries, and adaptations. Among reproductions made at Colonial Williamsburg, the author describes handmade reproductions made with tools and methods similar to those of the 18th century. Of necessity, the conservator is involved in manufacturing and caring for these reproductions. The author posits a number of interesting questions in relation to these period-faithful reproductions. He asks to what extent does the conservator's involvement with reproductions take away from time devoted to conserving originals. He asks whether these reproductions should be made to appear aged if displayed adjacent to or among authentic historic pieces. He states that the period reproductions—by standing in for originals in a living museum environment—provide a preservation function for the originals. He also states that the curators prefer the period reproductions over machine-made reproductions because “visitors want to gain a close proximity to objects and spaces”(p. 47). This statement, however, begs the question as to what visitors are gaining proximity: reproductions. The extent to which visitors are informed or are expected to infer how to distinguish originals and reproductions is not investigated in this paper. However, the complex impacts of the use of reproductions in the museum context are well introduced by this author.
The subject of aging or “antiquing” modern materials in a conservation context is also discussed in Ayse Gulcin Kucukkaya's paper on the conservation of Turkish decorative Kundekari panels. The author describes in excellent detail the technique of Kundekari panels composed of puzzlelike wood pieces that form elaborate geometric patterns by locking themselves in place in the absence of any adhesive or hardware. The author recommends that in filling losses of wood, the replacement “should be made of the same species of wood” (p. 52). The author adds that “it should be accepted that new members … would be distinguishable from the existing ones. To copy the natural decay or deformation of the replaced members or parts is not desirable” (p. 52). The author concludes, however, that the replacements can be toned to match the original. In general, this recommendation would seem quite benign in a conservation context. On closer reflection, however, it elicits some doubts as to whether, over a moderate time period, these replacements made of the same species of wood as the original and toned to match in color the original will remain visually distinguishable from the original to the casual viewer.
The precise detail in which techniques and materials are described is richly conveyed in a pair of papers on the Lacquer Room at the Residential Palace of Rastatt, the first by Katharina Walch-von Miller and the second by Ursula Baumer and Joahann Koller. These papers bring to light a remarkable primary source on the subject of European decorative “lacquer” painting. The authors refer to and cite the 1688 document by the Margravine Sibylla Augusta, wife of Ludwig-Wilhelm of Baden-Baden, who commissioned and built the Residential Palace, largely completed in 1702. The authors point out that the manuscript of the Magravine Sybylla Augusta,“Die ausführliche und aufrichtige Lack und Lassurkunst,” is among the first technical manuals on this topic in the German-speaking countries and that A Treatise of Japanning and Varnishing (1688]) by John Stalker and George Parker had never been translated into German. As a result, this is an enormously important document and one that the authors have probed and applied to the great advantage of the reader. The authors analyzed both the techniques and materials used in the Lacquer Room and compared their findings to what the Magravine Sibylla Augusta described in detail. The articles provide valuable information about constituent materials identified in the “lacquer” coatings as well as the layered structure and methods for creating raised ornamentation. The authors prefer the term “lacquer” instead of “Lacquers of the West,”“gloss lacquers,” or “European imitation lacquers.”
Most of these compiled papers include a thorough discussion of executed conservation treatments. Many are remarkable either in their scope or technique. A superb example of a largescale, interdisci-plinary conservation treatment is described by Pol Bruys and Willem Haakma Wagenaar, who present the conservation of the painted wooden vault from the Ursulakerk in Warmenhuizen. This is a wooden paneled choir vault decorated in 1525 with paintings in an aqueous medium. The paintings, depicting four scenes from the Old Testament, were concealed during the Reformation. The vault paintings were reexposed in the 19th century and also restored at that time. This paper discusses the original construction of the vault, the impact of the previous restorations on the paintings, as well as the objectives and execution of the current treatment. This is a very impressive project with thoughtful documentation.
As is generally true of subjects selected for presentation in a symposium, not only do all the papers in this compilation present interesting treatment challenges but the artifacts themselves are remarkable and far from quotidian. It is difficult to select one in particular out of such an exceptional group, but perhaps the restoration of the interior of the Dutch sailing barge distinguishes itself. Certainly, the diverse subjects in this publication are compelling. As is also true of published proceedings of symposia, the writing and editing are not entirely consistent throughout the publication, but this unevenness is hardly an impediment to reading these papers. Because the objects discussed in the papers are remarkable, the reader may be disappointed in the small black-and-white photographs that accompany the text. Never-theless, the subject of historic interiors promises to engage a wide audience. The professional interest in the preservation of these spaces is well balanced by the effect these spaces have on us, providing a tangible contact with the private and courtly lives of those who lived before us. In The American Scene (1907) Henry James described the museum of Isabella Stewart Gardner by touching on people's shared impulse to want to look into private spaces:“The attempt to tell the story of the wonderfully and splendidlylodged Gardner collection would be to displace a little the line that separates private from public property.” This publication, Historic Interiors: Conservation, Restoration and Reconstruction, does well to displace the “line” and bring these interior treasures to a wider public.
- Valentine Talland
- Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum
- 2 Palace Rd.
- Boston, Mass. 02115
VICTORIA OAKLEY AND KAMAL JAIN, ESSENTIALS IN THE CARE AND CONSERVATION OF HISTORICAL CERAMIC OBJECTS. London: Archetype Publications, 2002. 117 pages, softcover, $26.50. Available from Archetype Publications, 6 Fitzroy Square, London, W1T 5HJ; +44 207 380 0800. ISBN 1-873132-73-5.
Conservators Victoria Oakley of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and Kamal Jain of the National Research Laboratory for Conservation, Lucknow, India, have recently collaborated on a short text that is aptly titled Essentials in the Care and Conservation of Historical Ceramic Objects. While this text is brief, just 95 pages without the appendices, it is also succinct and complete.
The authors' purpose in writing this book was to provide basic methodology for professionals working in museum collections “in relative isolation,” but their clear, descriptive style and coverage of both deterioration problems and basic conservation methodology should prove useful to curators, collections managers, and conservation students everywhere.
Much of the ceramics conservation literature consists of detailed papers focused on specific topics. And most earlier general overviews are guides to restoration methods, biased toward cosmetically “invisible” repairs (still the standard in much of the antiques trade) and the kind of intrusive structural repairs needed if the primary goal of treatment is a return to use. A great many ceramic objects have been irreversibly damaged when utility or deception has been put ahead of preservation as the primary goal of restoration. But like the more comprehensive work The Conservation and Restoration of Ceramics by Victoria Oakley and Susan Buys, published in 1996, Essentials in Care and Conservation of Historical Ceramic Objects is firmly based in the conservative values and techniques of museum practice.
The contents of this book include discussions on ceramics technology, deterioration processes, basic care, examination and documentation, removal of previous restoration materials, approaches to cleaning, consolidation, joining broken pieces, filling missing areas, and retouching fillings. Seven appendices are included, featuring a summary table of treatment implications for ceramics by type, tests for soluble salts, a short bibliography, a glossary, directories of materials, manufacturers, and suppliers, and a list of conservation associations.
Perhaps what most readers will find attractive about this book is its brevity. The authors have managed to put forward the essential information necessary to approach this discipline, whether as a general bench conservator or as a collections manager with responsibility for decision making.
Indeed, every kind of problem I have seen at the bench as well as the full range of treatments available to me is touched on in this book. The only recommendation that concerned me was the authors'inclusion of silane resins as appropriate consolidants when desalination must follow. This material seems to me to be too disagreeable for use with most ceramics except perhaps architectural terracotta. The few other notes I made regarding minor errors, omissions, or points needing clarification are too few and too minor to mention here.
While the book has no major faults or flaws, its primary shortcoming may also be its strength— brevity. It is difficult to assess the communicative power of text when one already understands what is being conveyed, but there may be parts of this book where some readers will find the explanation leaves them wanting. For example, while the discussion of ceramic technology and types is accurate, many people have difficulty discerning the nature of the ware before them, due in no small part to the myriad ways to achieve similar results and the endless copying of ceramic types and decorations throughout history. A lot of ceramic objects have a white fabric that is colorfully decorated, but some are earthenware with a surface of opaque tinglaze, some are porous white earthenware viewed through clear glaze, while still others are more impervious stoneware or porce-lain. Understanding the distinction upon examination is essential to diagnosing problems correctly and selecting appropriate treatments. The authors offer valuable clues, but summarize these subjects in just a few short paragraphs. Some topics are omitted altogether, including emergency preparedness and universal concerns about earthquake mitigation and recovery of damaged materials. Still, the careful and thoughtful reader has been given all the basic facts in this primer, including appropriate warnings regarding health and safety issues as well as caveats that indicate when the technical skill required for a specific treatment is likely too great for the novice.
I recommend this book to anyone who needs a ready reference where the key facts are easily found. It will also be in reach for anyone building a library with economic constraints foremost in mind. And I would advise conservation educators to consider it as required reading where a survey of the ceramics conservation discipline is part of the curriculum.
- Kory Berrett
- Berrett Conservation Studio
- 3054 Reisler Rd.
- Oxford, Pa. 19363-2263
MARY-LOU E. FLORIAN, FUNGAL FACTS: SOLVING FUNGAL PROBLEMS IN HERITAGE COLLECTIONS. London: Archetype Publications,
2002. 146 pages, softcover, $37.50. Available from Archetype Publications, 6 Fitzroy Square, London, W1T 5HJ; +44 207 380 0800. ISBN 1-873132-63-8.
Despite a title that might seem to suggest quick and easy solutions for complex problems, this book is, in fact, the first serious mycology text for conservators. With 121 pages of text, a 5-page glossary, and a 13-page bibliography, it is first and foremost a distillation of relevant information from the voluminous and highly specialized mycological literature. Compare, for example, such standard mycology texts as the 632-page Introduction to Mycology (Constantine J. Alexopoulos and Charles W. Mims, 1979), the 686-page The Genus Aspergillus (Kenneth B. Raper and Dorothy I. Finnell, 1977), or the 875-page A Manual of Penicillia (Kenneth B. Raper and Charles Thom, 1949), and it will be clear why this work is so urgently needed by our field, and why it should be essential reading for those charged with the care of cultural property.
Based on the premise that an understanding of the organism is essential to informed decision making on prevention and treatment, six of the nine chapters are devoted primarily to the morphology and life history of conidial fungi, which are the fungi of primary concern to conservators. Described in the introduction by its author as a manual, the book is organized to “build sequentially … a knowledge base” that will enable the reader to implement prevention and recovery, which are addressed in the later chapters. Health hazards posed by fungal infestations are a major concern of the author, and these issues are addressed throughout the text and in the final chapter.
Beginning with a chapter on classification and nomenclature (which provides a vocabulary that will enable those who so desire to venture further into the standard mycological literature), the work attempts to clarify the often confusing subject of classification, which has undergone radical changes since the 1960s when fungi, previously considered a part of the plant kingdom, were reclassified in their own kingdom.
Chapters 3 through 5 include information on origins of airborne fungi, the nature of conidia, and factors governing dormancy, activation, germination, and vegetative growth. A number of these factors are of particular relevance in the prevention, control, and treatment of fungal infestations, and there is a need for further research in regard to these factors as they relate to heritage collections. For example,“Conidia dormancy and activation are probably the most important aspects of prevention and control of fungal activity on heritage objects. However, these aspects have been completely overlooked in current control approaches, which are based on the parameters of growth of the vegetative stage of the fungus, i.e., after the fact” (36). Moreover, while there is a great deal of mycological literature on the activation of conidia of species that are of concern in horticulture or agriculture, activation is rarely mentioned in the literature that discusses the growth of surface fungi on the materials that constitute most museum collections.
Other issues of concern to the field include environmental factors, the overriding importance of understanding various water relationships (absolute humidity, relative humidity, the equilibrium moisture content and water activity in the substrate, and the moisture content of the conidia and hyphae), and various aspects of standard conservation treatment that may have effects on the activation and growth of fungus. As noted above, many aspects of fungal growth, which are dealt with extensively in the mycological literature, have not been studied with regard to their occurrence in museum collections. In some cases, these chapters raise more questions than they answer and speak to the need for continued serious research into the interaction of the organism and materials.
The temptation for many will be to go directly to chapter 6, which explores the changes that may occur in the chemical and physical characteristics or chromaticity of the substrate. Many conidial fungi have the ability to digest cellulose, but this process occurs only when the fungi are in a damp environment for a prolonged period of time. Most surface fungi do not digest the substrate but use only the soluble nutrients present. Fungal pigments may be present in the hyphae and/or the conidia and may be secreted into the substrate, causing staining at various stages of the organism's development. The production of pigments is species-specific, but it is influenced by nutrients and metals in the substrate, light, and other environmental factors. The structure and physical characteristics of fungi pigments are an immense topic, and much literature is available on the subject. However, much of it is not intelligible to the unini-tiated. In addition to pigments, fungi produce organic acids, enzymes, proteins, amino acids, sugars, lipids and glycerol, and chelated metals, and excrete various metabolic products, including enzymes, glycerol, and organic acids. Chapter 6 also briefly explores the effects of these metabolic processes on the cellulose in paper, textiles, and wood, the protein in leather and wool, and inorganic materials including glass, stone, metals, and polymers and resins.
The final chapters of the book deal in general terms with collection recovery, monitoring, prevention, and disaster preparedness. The sections on aseptic techniques and monitoring are more comprehensive, while only a review is offered of reported methods of removing fungal growth, various drying techniques in situ, temporary storage of fungal-infested wet materials (freezing and refrigeration), and other methods of killing fungal structures (fungicides, high-energy radiation, and low-oxygen environments).
Due to the quantity of highly technical information in the text, the author wisely has included in each chapter a series of Fact Boxes, which summarize the various points of each section. These are most helpful in maintaining one's orientation when faced with the mass of information contained in this compact volume. The text is also copiously illustrated with graphs, chart, diagrams, and photographs. Although most terms are explained in the text, the glossary is also helpful, providing a quick reminder of the terms contained (but not retained) in previous chapters that should facilitate further reading in the mycology literature. The bibliography is organized alphabetically by subject and includes citations from both mycology and conservation literature.
As noted earlier in this review, this volume represents the first serious mycology text for conservators, bridging the gap between the vast mycological literature, which contains a wealth of information on the nature of the beast, and the conservator's need to deal with specific problems. Much more remains to be learned, particularly with regard to the interaction between fungi and heritage collections, the treatment of fungal damage, and the possibility that various procedures and materials used routinely in conservation treatment may in fact contribute to the problem. It is to be hoped that this first foray, which was supported by a Samuel H. Kress Conservation Publication Fellowship, will encourage further research and cooperation between mycologists and conserva-torsin order that some of the questions raised here can be addressed.
Mary-Lou Florian is a biologist working as a conservation scientist specializing in the deterioration, treatment requirements, and insect and fungal pest protection of organic museum objects. She has served as senior conservation scientist at the Canadian Conservation Institute in Ottawa, and as conservation scientist and head of conservation services at the Royal British Columbia Museum. In her current capacity as research associate emerita, she continues her research on fungal stains, teaching, and publications. She is the recipient of many awards for her contributions to conservation and is an honorary member of the American Institute for Conservation.
- Mary Wood Lee
- 5 Railroad Sq.
- West Cornwall, Conn. 06796
TERRY DRAYMAN-WEISSER, ED., GILDED METALS: HISTORY, TECHNOLOGY, AND CONSERVATION. London: Archetype Publications, 2000. 361 pages, hardcover, $120. Available from Archetype Publications, 6 Fitzroy Square, London, W1T 5HJ; +44 207 380 0800. ISBN 1 873132X.
This book, based on the very well received Gilded Metals Symposium of the AIC Objects Specialty Group, took five years to produce. It is an impressive volume and should not disappoint those who have been waiting patiently. It greatly enhances the recent conservation literature on the topic of gilding, joining Gilded Wood: Conservation and History published by the Wooden Artifacts Group and Gilding: Approaches to Treatment, the recent postprints of a joint symposium of English Heritage and the United Kingdom Group of the International Institute for Conservation (UKIC), as “must haves.”
This book, too, might better be termed “proceedings” or “postprints.” While the collection of separate papers is rather encyclopedic, the book lacks the cohesiveness of editorial narrative, in spite of an insightful foreword by Terry Drayman-Weisser. The retention of abstracts is awkward and a little ambiguous. The editor's foreword might have served as a better place to summarize the papers. Gilded Metals also lacks an index, making reference difficult. Another inconvenience, the probable result of budget constraints, is the concentration of all color plates in a 36-page section at the end of the book (these pages are not numbered). Most images are small, with many on a page. A number of them simply enhance the black-and-white versions found within the text.
The subtitle of the book is “History, Technology, and Conservation,” yet the conservation aspect some-times seems an afterthought. The book contains very thorough historical and technological overviews of various types of gilding on metal substrates from around the world, from ancient through modern times, compared with only a few case studies of conservation treatments. A comprehensive overview of the history of conservation treatments, including past restoration and forgery methods, is lacking.
The emphasis on history of technology rather than conservation practice is probably for the best, however. On reading the various papers, I had a recurring realization of the potential complexity of gilded metal surfaces and an increasing awareness of the chances for loss of scientific evidence when treatments are carried out in ignorance of these complexities.
The book begins with two broad overviews, one art historical, the other scientific. Andrew Oddy's “A History of Gilding with Particular Reference to Statuary” is an excellent overview to set the tone of any definitive book on the topic. Next, we encounter “Corrosion Chemistry of Gilded Silver and Copper” by Lyndsie Selwyn, also an outstanding summary. Unfortunately, these were not written to support each other or the remaining chapters, certainly a missed opportunity. We are then somewhat abruptly taken from broad strokes into minutiae sampled from the ancient Western world with five papers. The ancient Far East is represented by four papers, and the ancient New World by two papers. It is a testament to the organizers of the symposium that the selected papers serve so well in this context. Nonetheless, it is a challenge for the reader to extract relationships and useful generalizations among all the time periods, cultures, and regions covered, not to mention the various metal substrates and means of applying or depositing gold onto them. This information must be acquired while wading through the details of experimental design, dutifully reported results and observations, statistical analyses, and necessarily tentative conclusions.
Paul Jett and Tom Chase present a well-constructed overview of gilded metals in China, broadening the existing emphasis in the literature on fire gilding. Examples of substrates include silver alloy, copper alloy, and iron. The latter example emphasizes how the differences between gilding and other decorative techniques are often blurred.
In chapter 9, Ryn Murenchani provides an illu-minating study of Japanese technical methods of fire gilding using newly prepared samples of mercury-amalgam gilding for comparison with excavated arti-facts. The study relies primarily on scanning electron microscopy (SEM), x-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF), and x-ray powder diffraction (XRD) to eluci-date micromorphological features. This study is useful far beyond the original scope of Japanese artifacts, providing insight into the nature of amalgam gilding in general as well as a workable model for future investigation. Bruce Christman discusses a rare example of depletion gilding on three 7th-century Tibetan silver vessels not often found in the Old World. A summary of Sassanian and Tang silversmithing techniques is also presented for comparison. Donna Stra-han and Christopher Maines present an extremely valuable overview of the use of lacquer as an adhesive for gilding on copper alloy in Southeast Asia.
David Scott makes clear in chapter 12 the details of ancient South American gilding techniques, such as foil gilding, fusion gilding, electrochemical replacement, and depletion gilding, and he stresses the critical role of metallographic examination in interpreting subtleties of gilding technology. In Chapter 14, “Gilding Techniques of the Renaissance and After” by Andrew Lins, provides a much-needed regrouping and refocusing to help launch the reader into the modern era. As stated in the abstract, this essay clearly represents the evolution of applied chemistry in metal production, particularly with respect to advances in fire gilding, electrochemical gilding, and electroplating. Lins starts with a fascinating but tantalizingly brief overview, including the basic chemistry involved in the development of various gilding techniques through modern electroplating, with only a brief mention of later 20th-century developments. In the appendix, Lins presents several very interesting experimental studies attempting to reproduce historical gilding techniques. Most interesting is the question of the use of a chemical “quick-ing” primer (mercuric nitrate) prior to fire gilding to improve the wetting and spreading of gold amalgam on copper alloys. A sweeping account of the development of modern gilding methods from the Renaissance on, this chapter includes electrochemical gilding, mercuric nitrate priming or “quicking” for fire gilding, gold electroplating, and immersion gilding. Most fascinating are recent experiments presented in the chapter's appendix, replicating several of the techniques described. (The reader must remember that the black-and-white figures are reproduced in color versions in the back of the book.) Lin's account basically ends at mid-20th century, offering a paragraph mentioning that many aerospace and electronic innovations, such as sputtering, ion plating, and plasma, are metallizing to form 10 nm thick gold layers. As Lins states, these materials are making their way into museum collections, and conservators need to be aware of the techniques used to make them.
In Chapter 15, Andrew Lins and Sally Amlenka expound on their experiment with mercury nitrate “quicking” solutions discussed in the preceding chapter, this time as a primer for electroplating rather than fire gilding. A key focus of the work presented in this essay is how mercury affects the corrosion of the copper alloy substrate during plating and the short-term and long-term adhesion of the gold plating. While this chapter at first impression seems redundant, it does present a continuation of an experiment mentioned before, in chapter 14 where the question is posed, along with a review of the use of mercury salt solution in the technical literature of the 19th and 20th centuries. This chapter is also a valuable resource for the battery of analytical methods presented to monitor solutions, conditions, and results of the experiment. These include atomic absorption spectroscopy, XRD, XRF, potentiodynamic polarization measurements, and electron probe microanalysis with a wavelength dispersive system (EPMA/WDS) line scanning and spot scanning. Lins and Malenka end this chapter, as before, with a tantalizingly brief mention of practical examination of a plated object to determine whether mercury “quick-ing” had been used. A third chapter detailing the manufacture and examination of the Philadelphia Museum of Art's Milton Shield is wanting.
The chemistry of the bond between the copper alloy substrate and gold-mercury amalgam is revisited in chapter 16 by Brian Considine and Michael Faucet in a detailed account of the fabrication methods of a French 18th-century ormolu furniture mount. Casting, cleaning, gilding, and patination methods are shown in the 52 accompanying photographs. Of interest to all who handle such artifacts is the fact that the formation of the mercury and copper compounds during the amalgam heating process results in the retention of mercury in and below the resulting gold layer, increasing in concentration from the surface down into the substrate. The subtle adjustment of the surface polish through selective burnishing and by local chemical patination is mentioned, leaving the reader wanting even more information than is presented in the photograph captions.
Carol Aiken's cautionary paper presents a guide to the gold and golden components of Fabergé objects, stopping just short of prescribing detailed methods and materials for treatment. Aiken provides excellent practical guidelines and stresses the importance of recognizing the rich variety of Fabergé's gold-colored surfaces because of their vulnerability to damage by improper handling, cleaning, etc. Understanding the intended surface effects of each component, and interpreting surface conditions such as dark tarnishing through gold plating distinguished from deliberate darkening of steel components, will inform long-term maintenance, storage, exhibition, and treatment decisions. Lacking in this essay is any analytical methodology to help in answering these questions. Nonetheless, the reader, by this time, is well versed in the range of techniques available should visual inspection be inconclusive.
Jonathan Thornton's essay could be expanded into a book, the subject being so rich and fascinating. In bringing us from antiquity to the present in his survey of imitation gold, Thornton touches on some of the late 20th-century techniques that Andrew Lins alluded to in chapter 14, including vacuum metallizing and sputtering. The chapters dedicated to conservation treatments are too few, but excellent. Deborah Long's case study of the treatment of false gilding on copper alloy presents a laudable effort to treat disfiguring copper corrosion on a brass surface having a shellac-based imitation gold coating, without disturbing that coating. Her rationale for the selection of methods and materials is clearly presented. She presents a good model for development of treatment strategy in cooperation with conservation scientists. One practical problem that does not receive sufficient discussion was the use of microcrystalline wax to compensate where the lacquer was missing. Potential problems of accelerated recorrosion of lacquer-free waxed areas due to differential transmission of water vapor and gases appears not to have been considered in favor of a readily reversible and initially cosmetically successful treatment solution.
The challenge of treating chloride-based bronze disease on a gilded copper alloy substrate is met in the treatment of Richard Lippold's The Sun, by Jack Flotte and Jean Dommermuth in chapter 20. Tests on several classes of stripping agents were made in order to find a means of avoiding replating.
Linda Merck-Gould's “Preservation of a Gilded Monumental Sculpture: Research and Treatment of Daniel Chester French's Quadriga” is the only chapter dedicated to outdoor sculpture. Unfortunately, it is not a representative example, since the Quadriga is a copper sculpture, not cast bronze. The project does serve to focus on issues of determining and achieving the artist's original intent. Merck-Gould addresses some pitfalls of art-historical investigation and the incomplete degree to which analysis and maintenance records form a picture of this intent, leaving the conservator to make a leap of faith in carrying out the physical act of treatment or replication.
Some of the technical issues encountered in gilded bronze outdoor sculpture, particularly with regard to priming and protective coating layers, are actually addressed in the last chapter, “Architectural Gilding on Exterior Metal” by Michael W. Kramer. Like other articles in the book, this one crosses beyond its defined subject parameters to inform other aspects of gilded metals conservation. Kramer recaps the industrial history of gilding metal and provides a useful base for understanding modern alternative materials, especially in the context of environmental, health, and safety restrictions.
Gilded Metals: History, Technology, and Conservation is an eminently useful collection of exceptional papers on the subject, but it stops just short of being a truly comprehensive overview. An index would help, as would a glossary of technical terms.
- John Griswold
- Griswold Conservation Associates, LLC
- 2054 Coldwater Canyon Dr.
- Beverly Hills, Calif. 20210
ANNE-MARIE KEBLOW BERNSTED, EARLY ISLAMIC POTTERY MATERIALS AND TECHNIQUES. London: Archetype Publications, 2003. 101 pages, softcover, $32.50. Available from Arche-type Publications, 6 Fitzroy Square, London, W1T 5HJ; +44 207 380 0800. ISBN 1-873132-98-0.
The author's purpose in creating this book was to make the subject of early Islamic pottery more accessible to people who are interested in its technology, particularly in light of the fact that most of this material is found in vitrines in museums and must be studied from a distance. Anne-Marie Keblow Bern-sted, who received a master of science degree from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Conservation, introduces the reader to the subject of Islamic ceramics and the various disciplines one needs to know, such as geology and mineralogy, in order to study and comprehend the technologies that were used to make them.
A strength of this book is that Bernsted acquaints the reader with early Islamic ceramics through art history, color photography and descriptions of raw materials that were used to fabricate the wares, photomicrographs of microscopic surfaces and petrographic samples, many well-executed drawings, images taken with the scanning electron microscope, and chemical analysis. The examination of a ceramic as graphically as is presented in this book, through an understanding of raw materials, techniques, and scientific examination, is rarely found in the popular literature. For the nonconservator and nonscientist, the book illustrates how ceramic studies are conducted today in a museum context by conservators and conservation scientists and what can be learned from them.
The book is divided into four sections. The first describes the ceramic raw materials and techniques used to create various types of early Islamic pottery. Using pottery examples to explain known and well-studied, as well as not so well-known and misunderstood, materials and techniques that have often been published in the literature (such as Abu'l Qasim's Trea-tise on Ceramics translated by James Allen, the standard reference used by most people who are interested in the history and manufacture of Islamic ceramics), Bernsted endeavors to explore how a given vessel was made. To do this, she uses cross sections, drawings, scanning electron microscope images, and graphs of elemental composition to illustrate the various ways in which opacifiers, glazes on ceramic bodies, or chemical compositions can be studied and identified in the laboratory.
The second, short section combines color images of aspects of a modern, though probably very traditional, kiln with sketches and drawings of kiln elevations, furniture, and methods of stacking the kiln. Color images of kiln interiors, whether of a fully stacked kiln or of the long pegs extending through the kiln wall that serve as shelving or a hanging system, are rare in the Islamic ceramic literature, so they are particularly welcome here. The other literature sources that discuss ancient Islamic kilns are Rudolph Naumann's publications from the excavations of the Takht-i Sulayman and Hans Wullf's The Traditional Crafts of Persia, references that the author provides in the bibliography. The subject of kilns in antiquity is still understudied and underrepresented in the literature as compared to other technical subjects. This chapter adds a few new color images to the paucity of images available, which will be of interest to many people from numerous disciplines interested in ancient firing practices.
The third section is intended to familiarize the reader with the chemical and petrographic information that can be derived from an analytical examination of ceramics. It describes the chemical and physical constituents of various ceramic bodies, be they clay from Iraq, Egypt, or other places where ceramic raw materials originated. Bernsted presents the chemical composition of some fired ceramics and describes, in both images and text, petrographic studies of the ceramic cross sections, detailing aspects of the microstructure such as matrix coloration and types of inclusions and their physical characteristics.
The fourth section briefly describes the topography and occurrence of raw materials used to make ceramics. This section, which ideally should come earlier in the book (perhaps combined with the first chapter on raw materials), tours sites where clays are present and other ceramic raw materials of interest, but does not discuss the history of use or processing of materials found in these regions, making the purpose of the chapter unclear, other than to mention where certain kinds of ceramic raw materials may be found in the world.
This book sets out with the greatest of intentions; however, conservators or conservation scientists experienced in working with ceramics will find that it has faults as well as merits. Bernsted's drawings of vessel forms, profiles, and diagrams help the reader focus on presented concepts that are often not easy to understand otherwise. For instance, her drawings of layers and particles that an investigator studies and identifies when looking at ceramic cross sections, such as opacifying agents, mineral inclusions, or glaze-layering sequences, are instructive and well done. The author has compiled a very good international and interdisciplinary bibliography, which is a significant contribution to the study of Islamic ceramics. The book covers literature from the different disciplines and languages that one needs to read in order to shed light on the various aspects of Islamic ceramics, including history, art history, ceramics, chemistry, and geology.
The major shortcomings of this book, however, are that it is not well edited, it contradicts itself from one passage or sentence to another, and the author does not properly credit the work of others. The book, like a lecture, is intended to introduce the technology of early Islamic ceramics to an audience of people interested in the subject. However, unlike a lecture, this book should have footnotes. One wonders why there are none, since the bibliography is quite good. Many people have published on Islamic ceramics from many points of view, but no credit to others is given where appropriate. Throughout the book, the images are out of focus, particularly the photomicrographs of the petrographic cross sections. Oddly, all photos have credit lines. Although the intention of this book is very good, it falls short of the mark due to poor editing and contradic-tory text, poor-quality images, and sometimes confusing organization.
Shortcomings aside, it certainly fills an interdisci-plinary niche in the literature. The concepts presented, the color images of petrographic samples, the analytical techniques discussed, and the bibliography make this book worth having.
- John Hirx
- Head Objects Conservator
- Los Angeles County Museum of Art
- 5905 Wilshire Blvd.
- Los Angeles, Calif. 90036
HARRIET K. STRATIS AND BRITT SALVESEN, EDS. THE BROAD SPECTRUM: STUDIES IN THE MATERIALS, TECHNIQUES, AND CONSERVATION OF COLOR ON PAPER. London: Archetype Publications, 2002. 264 pages, hardcover, $120. Available from Archetype Publications, 6 Fitzroy Square, London W1T 5HJ. ISBN 1-873132-57-3.
In October 1999, 300 paper conservators, curators, and conservation scientists from 22 countries converged upon the Art Institute of Chicago to attend a symposium on the history and preservation of colored media used on paper. This volume, The Broad Spectrum: Studies in the Materials, Techniques, and Conservation of Color on Paper, comprises the 37 papers delivered at the symposium by art and paper historians, conservators, and scientists. Most of the papers cover the history and use of colored media on paper in European, North American, and Asian art created from the 16th to the 20th century. Important information on the treatment, storage, and assessment of fading of these same works is also included.
Harriet Stratis, conservator of prints and drawings at the Art Institute, is largely responsible for the conference in its conception and actualization, and for the publication it spawned. The Broad Spectrum conference and publication reflect the bias of the Art Institute toward collaborative projects that incorporate contributions from both curatorial and conservation professionals. Douglas Druick, Searle Curator of European Paintings and Prince Trust Curator Prints and Drawings at the Art Institute, opened the conference on a personal note. Recalling the many projects he had worked on with a “broad spectrum” of colleagues including paper conservators at the National Gallery of Canada and at the Art Institute, he said, “In my experience, collaboration produces new questions—and new answers—that can radically shift the perspective from which an artist's work is viewed. … Increasingly, we … in museums realize that multiple sets of eyes, shaped by different professional experiences, can see further into any question that involves the making and meaning of a work of art” (pp. vii–viii). Richard Kendall, an independent scholar, was even more optimistic about the effects of collaboration. Obviously on the side of the “object oriented” in the current dispute between academic and curatorial art historians, he wrote: “These partnerships surely point the way forward, perhaps to the definition of a new, interdisciplinary field where the work of art will once more take center stage” (p. 28). Their complete embrace of curatorial and conservation collaboration is not unique, but, in my experience, it is rare and historically new.
Judging by the response to the conference and the high quality of the papers in this book, this challenge is applauded by conservators, as many have been preparing to act like colleagues to their curatorial counterparts for some time. In the interest of honesty in book reviewing, I must say this is a bias I share, and an attitude I welcome. Conservators who think of themselves as scholars, accepting the rigorous standards of the highest level of research and writing, have a tremendous amount to offer. We should ask and be asked to do this hard work more often. Cooperative study between curators and conservators increases the general appreciation of artworks, and cooperative projects can be the most rewarding of our careers. The Broad Spectrum demonstrates the results of conserva-tors' research both in conjunction with another and alone, in a book that is exemplary in content, organization, and design. If you buy only one book on paper conservation this year, make it this one. You will be enlightened and inspired.
Each chapter begins with an overview of the subject, written by a well-known scholar. Indeed, I actually identify some of the authors with the media they covered: Marjorie Shelley romps through the history of pastel; Marjorie Cohn discusses the range of watercolor effects using Albrecht Dürer's watercolors as examples; Carlo James gives us a historical discussion of drawing inks; Elizabeth Coombs and Roger Keyes decipher variant palettes seen in ukiyo-e woodblock prints. Their thought that “Color is the language of the heart, of nuanced sensibility, of degrees and shades of feeling”(p. 189) is an example of the philosophical bent of the introductory essays.
Thoughtful discussions follow these introductions—discussions that are germane to the concerns of conservators and historians of each media. In pastel, for example, papers discuss the important distinction between chalk and pastel (Thea Burns), the use of colored papers by pastelists (Peter Bower), and the storage and transportation of the fragile works (Gregory Hill, Gilbert Gignac, and Maria Bedynski). Most interesting to me are case studies of individual artists' studio practice presented by either an art historian or a conservator. Again for pastel, we are offered Thea Burns on Rosealba Carriera, Richard Kendall on Edgar Degas, Anne Mayheux on Giuseppe De Nittis (a little known but very interesting contemporary of Degas), and Margaret MacDon-ald on James McNeill Whistler. The table of contents reads like a who's who of scholars and artists.
The same high quality of scholarship is found in the watercolor and ink sections, wherein Thomas McGrath considers the practical uses of pastel and watercolor in Italian Renaissance drawing, and Susan Dackerman and Thomas Primeau report on their seminal studies of hand-colored Renaissance and baroque prints. (The full results of their study can be found in the exhibition catalog by Susan Dackerman, Painted Prints: The Revelation of Color,With an Essay by Thomas Primeau, Penn State Press, 2002.) Again, individual artists' practice is discussed. The making and meaning of the watercolor work of J. M. W.
Turner, Paul Cézanne, and Winslow Homer are considered by Joyce Townsend, Faith Zieske, and Yoonjoo Strumfels and Barbara Berrie, respectively. In still another impressive lineup of artists and scholars, impressionist and modern water media works are grouped together and include studies on Paul Gauguin's prints by Peter Zegers, Édouard Vuillard's distempers by Faye Wrubel and Gloria Groom (see also the catalog by Gloria Groom, Beyond the Easel: Decorative Painting by Bonnard, Vuillard, Denis and Roussel, 1890–1930, Yale University Press, 2001), and Karel Appel's gouaches by Piet van Dalen and Gabriëlle Beenjes.
Inks used by artists are more problematic than either watercolor or pastel, in both their identification and their treatment. The papers on ink reflect this situation: Vincent Daniels reviews, in clear, simple language, the state of information on the degradation of paper by copper-and iron-containing pigments and inks, and Elmer Eusman's important and contin-uing work on the treatment of iron gall ink is refined in his essay on the migration of the active iron ion, Fe(II), during aqueous treatment. Excellent essays on the particularities of the contemporary media of daylight fluorescent paints, ink jet printing, and felt tip markers are also included.
Most of the papers on Asian art concern treatment strategy and results, including an overview of the particular materials and needs of paintings from India. These essays offer ideas and warnings to practitioners, especially to those of us who are less familiar with the material. Brigitte Yeh's thorough study of the 17th-century Chinese painting manual Ten Bamboo Studio is a welcome addition to both the literature on color printing and on this often cited, but less understood, manual that influenced many artists in the East and West. Like most of the offerings in this volume, it would shine among papers in many different venues.
Finally, essays cover the measurement of color and assessment of fading. Roy Perkinson puts his degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to good work in the self-explanatory “Statistics without Anesthesia: Interpreting Color Data.” Conservators have had color measurement devices at their disposal for two decades, and the avalanche of numbers we have generated has overtaken at least my understanding of their meaning. (I always think: lies, damn lies, and statistics.) Here we are given a mathematical tool for critical interpretation of our own data, and the data presented to us. The Isabella Stew-art Gardner Museum study of possible fading of John Singer Sargent watercolors undertaken by Barbara Mangum and Arlen Heginbotham addresses the problems of color measurement in practice and shows an intelligent approach to addressing those problems. Paul Whitmore presents his invention of a “microfading tester” that obviates the problems of color measurement by performing a microscopic light exposure with continuous color readings over a short time span, directly recording the rate of fading of a small spot on the actual object. One might quibble over whether this test can be called nondestructive, but not over its efficacy and accuracy. This new device was put to important practical work in exhibition policy reviews or case studies at the Harvard University Art Museum, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, reported by the conservators there.
The Broad Spectrum is a handsome volume; rarely have conference papers read so well or looked so good. It is also an important book. It documents an incipient change in the field of paper conservation and distinguishes us all by the scholarship it contains. Buy one for yourself, and one for an art historian you want to impress.
- Judith Walsh
- Senior Paper Conservator
- National Gallery of Art
- Washington, D.C.