Bugs in the Art!
Lately, they seem to be everywhere, including in works of art. Whether found in private collections or leading institutions, insects appear to be taking advantage of global warming and thereby putting works of art at risk.
Also, due to the increased number of international traveling exhibitions, the ability of insects to travel quickly from one end of the globe to another has risen dramatically. Such was the case recently when a group of contemporary paintings arrived from overseas for an exhibition at a noted NYC gallery. Upon opening the shipping containers, art handlers discovered insects in the plastic wrapped paintings. It was at that point that we were called in to inspect and to propose a solution.
It is very rare to discover decorative works of art over 250 years old that have not passed through the hands of a restorer. Revolutions, wars, change of ownership or location all take their toll, and occasionally not to a work’s benefit. Such was the case recently when a Longcase Regulater clock by Balthazar Lieutaud from mid 18th century France arrived in our studio.
An Art Work’s Environment
The January snowstorm in New York City, with over two feet of snow, brought back memories of the winter of 2015, which was particularly challenging for many art collections in the Northeast. During that period, an 18th century Diego and Evans English tall case red japanned clock had suffered significantly, and we were asked to conserve it. Today, after conservation, this beautifully painted object is prominently installed at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Its ordeal, however, brings up a wide range of environmental issues that impact all works of art, irrespective of object, type, or medium.
Functional Hardware & Fasteners
Last year was a banner year for furniture exhibitions in New York City. Surely one of the most memorable was the Abraham and David Roentgen exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum. In fact, the exhibition was so popular that the YouTube video depicting the Roentgens' Berlin Secretary Cabinet generated nearly five million hits.
What Wood Is That?
The identification of old woods is part of everyday life in the studio, and the examples we see can be difficult to recognize with certainty. Recently we were asked to conserve a beautiful and intricate parquetry panel whose design featured many different veneers. Since there were a few missing sections, we examined the veneers in situ to determine appropriate matches for replacement.
Many times when viewing paintings, drawing and prints, it is impossible not to notice how much their frames add to the esthetic experience. This happened to me recently, while viewing the alluring exhibition "Impressionism, Fashion, and Modernity" at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Peinture en Bois
Marquetry is often considered the zenith of the cabinetmaker's art. The ingenuity required to conceive and piece together intricate designs made of various types of wood frequently yields breathtaking results. Unfortunately, objects decorated with marquetry require particular care and are quite susceptible to conservation issues. There is nearly always such an object in the studio for treatment.
The Conservation of an Ivory Statue
Nearly every prominent collection of decorative art objects includes items made of materials that are now considered rare or are regulated by government agencies. Ivory is perhaps foremost among these materials. It has been favored by craftsmen for centuries. Famous examples include the Venus of Schelklingen, believed to be more than 35,000 years old, and carved from mammoth ivory, and the Lewis Chessmen, dating from the twelfth century.
Furniture Condition Checklist
The beginning of autumn is a good time examine your furniture collection for early signs of wear, and to prepare for the upcoming entertaining and holiday season. The following short checklist can assist you.
Conservation of Historic Metals
Private collections in New York City include stellar examples of decorative art metalwork, including the above precious metal examples we had the privilege to treat recently. The image on the left is part of a sterling silver coffee and tea service, c.1925-30, by Georg Jensen with horn handles, smooth metal, and a brilliant finish.
An English 18th-Century Japanned Cabinet on Stand
A private collector in New York City recently brought in a beautiful English cabinet on stand with a delicate Asian-inspired design crafted in gold leaf on a black japanned ground for treatment. This piece was truly extraordinary; we had noticed one of similar quality in a famous European collection.