Ida Noyes Theatre, University of Chicago

(Above) Doorsill, Ida Noyes Theatre North Wall, before and after treatment


(Above) Cleaning test detail, South Wall 

(Above) The South Wall, after treatment


The Masque of Youth was painted in 1918 by Jesse Arms Botke, and encircles the perimeter of the Ida Noyes Theater at the University of Chicago. The mural was installed for the opening of Ida Noyes Hall, at the time a new building for female students. The subject matter, featuring a promenade of figures, commemorates the 1916 outdoor presentation, The Masque of Youth”, performed by students, staff and alumni to celebrate the University of Chicago’s 25th Anniversary. Allegorical symbols featured in the mural as a whole include Alma Mater, Lake Michigan and Youth, as well as the five divisions of the University: Archaeology, Chemistry, Medicine, Literature and Art.


The oil on canvas and plaster murals were layered with a heavy dirt and particulate film resting on top of a discolored varnish film. These layers masked the original color relationships in the murals and flattened the three-dimensional quality of the surface image. The paintings were pulling free from the wall along the upper and lower edges and vertical joins required reinforcement. Numerous loss areas had also occurred.


The murals were cleaned of the dirt, grime and yellowed varnish films with a 1:1 solvent mixture. The lifting edge areas and seams were reset into place with acrylic resin, a reversible conservation adhesive. A buffering layer of varnish was applied over the original painted surface. Areas of loss were filled with gesso and retouched using color- and light-fast conservation pigments. A final layer of Soluvar Matt varnish was applied to provide color saturation and protect the paint against fluids and air pollution.