The Objects Department specializes in the restoration of sculpture and three-dimensional works in ceramic, plaster, marble, metal, stone, wood, glass, mixed media, as well as ethnographic sculptures and artifacts. This subspecialty within the field of conservation demands a broad knowledge of sculpture materials and fabrication techniques, both historic and contemporary.
Click on any image below to view a larger version and to view in sequence. For more detailed information, see our archive of related newsletter articles.
Woman’s Vest, Czech, Early 20th c. Leather, dyes, sheep fleece. 18 x 14 in.
The National Czech and Slovak Museum in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, was hard hit by the floods of 2008. Their textile collection was displayed on the first floor and got the brunt of damage (left, frozen for transport); after careful cleaning, they were restored to their previous state (right).
Napoleonic Dragoon Helmet, French, early 19c. Bronze, steel, horsehair, leather, velvet. 12 x 8 x 10 in.
This helmet was suffering age-related damage and needed a proper storage solution (left). The conservators repaired the it’s good looks, replaced some missing elements, and the custom framing and fabrication department constructed a elegant stand to allow the helmet to be displayed (right). Read more about this treatment here.
Terracotta Horse, Chinese Tang Dynasty (618-907 CE). Terracotta and pigments. 14 x 12 x 5 in.
Improper packaging caused the extensive damage with this terracotta figurine (left). The reconstruction of the legs was accompanied by a retouching of some previous distracting repairs (right). For more details, please read our article.
Perak (Traditional Headdress), the People of the Ladakh region of the Himalayas. Fabric, felt, yak hair, dyed wool, turquoise and coral stones, silver, glue and skin. 58.8 x 18.5 x 1.5 in.
This ceremonial headdress is worn with the triangle portion as a brim, the semicircles protruding like ears or a hat brim, and the rest trailing down the wearer’s back, as seen in this photographer’s work. This particular one was in a severely moth-eaten state when the conservators examined it, with many decorative and structural elements threatening to break loose (left). With the infestation removed, the pieces were stabilized and the whole object mounted to preserve the headdress’s form and stability (right).For more information, please read the related article.
Wooden Floral Relief, Pieter Luypen (Dutch, 1763-1810?). 18th c., Carved brown oak. 20 x 9 3/8, 5/8 in.
This carving was in poor condition, with multiple pieces already broken off and many historic repairs needing re-gluing (left, with glue flourescing). With the aid of an older photograph, not only could the broken pieces be replaced, but the old repairs were redone with better conservation materials (right). For more information, read the treatment report.
Stabile Sculpture, Alexander Calder (American 1898-1976), Paint on steel, 90 x 47 x 32 in.
This outdoor Calder sculpture was brought to The Center for repainting and cleaning, as is frequently necessary when a sculpture remains subjected to uncontrollable conditions (left, in our storage facility). Respecting guidelines laid out by The Calder Foundation on the repainting of the late artist’s work, the conservators restored the paint coat and cleaned off the outdoor debris (right).
Study for a Sculpture in the Form of a Saw, Cutting, Claes Oldenberg (Swedish/American 1929-). 1973. Corrugated cardboard, mat board, spray paint, pencil. 17.5 x 10 x 10 in.
This is the maquette for a larger sculpture installed in Tokyo in 1996. It had been damaged in transit, and required re-affixing to its base (#1). Steadying it while the glue set required an elaborate system of vertical support without pulling too much in any direction (#2). When the glue had set and the tears were reinforced, the model’s losses were inpainted. (#3)
Viking Shield, Swedish, c. 1873. Steel sheet with black and gold finishes. 100 x 71 x 1/4 in.
This massive shield made for the Chicago World’s Fair came to us from the Swedish American museum with corrosion that needed to be treated (left). The curator requested that the shield not be restored while it was being conserved, so the pictorial design was left varnished and its losses were not inpainted (right).
Animalistic Vase, Precolumbian. Terracotta with slip decoration. 16 x 9 x 8.5 in.
This vase suffered from a shipping mishap and was sent to The Center in twenty pieces (left). Thankfully, there were no substantial gaps when the pieces were fit back together, but the conservators did have to contend with the presence of grime and a previous restoration (right).