By Adrienne Gendron, Gradutate Intern in Objects Conservation at the CMA
Couple of products embody luxurious more completely than mother-of-pearl and gold. This mother-of-pearl supporter is composed of 19 slats with gold-coloured inlay and cutout designs showcasing butterflies and flowers (fig. 1). The enthusiast was made by René Lalique, a French jeweler and glassmaker working at the height of the Art Nouveau movement in the early 20th century. At that time, artists started to refocus on the value of the specific artist’s hand immediately after a interval of fascination with industrial procedures. The Art Nouveau motion released an appreciation for organic and natural forms, references to the pure planet, and an affinity for Japanese style. Concurrently, there was an outpouring of artistic work into the realm of attractive arts, ensuing in a abundant time period of creative imagination and ornamentation of everyday objects. Lalique was heralded as “the finest jeweler doing work in France” and was recognized for using materials animated by gentle (Harrison 2008, 29).
The mom-of-pearl utilized to generate this Lalique enthusiast is pretty slim (about the thickness of a quarter) and produced even extra sensitive because of to the intricate cutout layouts. Several years ago, a person of the slats broke into many parts. Previous repair attempts used an adhesive, but with this kind of a tiny floor area to join, the repairs have been inherently weak and failed continuously. As element of my graduate internship with the museum’s objects conservation lab, I was asked to discover a superior alternative to this hard challenge.
To do this, it is critical to assess an item and establish the most correct remedy. After studying the object’s cultural context, I decided that, as an Artwork Nouveau luxury attractive arts object, the fan’s gorgeous visual appeal is paramount to its main indicating. The item is no for a longer period visually coherent in its existing broken state, and repairing it would return a diploma of visual legibility to the item reliable with Lalique’s artistic custom. Its existing affliction also renders the object unstable and susceptible to even further harm, so fixing the spot would limit threat. With these issues in mind, I made the decision to study as a lot as I could about the object and how it was made, in order to establish an suitable therapy prepare.
Examining the admirer beneath a microscope disclosed fascinating information. While at first look the slats surface to be produced in one piece, skillfully executed joins are seen beneath magnification (fig. 3). The artist utilised at the very least two parts of mom-of-pearl to develop every slat, using a subtle splicing strategy to make the joins as invisible as feasible. I could also see that the artist first mapped out the designs in shallow incised traces (fig. 4). The narrow slits have been built making use of a little drill to pierce holes, which ended up then elongated into slits with a jeweler’s saw.
The entrance of the lover is also adorned with incised traces, which are filled with gold-colored product . The incisions have angled sides, indicating that they had been built working with a pointed software. Under the microscope, the gold content looks like lots of personal particles as opposed to a one sheet of steel, suggesting that it was applied as a powder fairly than as a leaf (fig. 5).
At 1st look the gold-colored material and metallic loop appeared to be pure gold on the other hand, matters are not always as they appear! I applied transportable X-ray fluorescence (pXRF), a non destructive analytical method that supplies details on elemental composition, to uncover out additional. I discovered that the gold-colored material consists of brass, a copper and zinc alloy, alongside with some gold. My investigation of the steel loop proposed that it is likely composed of a copper alloy base metallic that has been gold plated.
Future, I designed mock-ups to achieve a palms-on comprehension of how the lover was manufactured. Working with sample items of mother-of-pearl, I developed incised channels with a Dremel instrument and analyzed three solutions of applying gold-colored fill: flash gilding (gold powder utilized over a binder), shell gold (gold particles suspended in a gum arabic medium and applied as paint), and mordant gilding (gold leaf applied around a binder) (fig. 6). I observed that the flash gilding approach gave an visual appearance most identical to the regions on the Lalique enthusiast. This idea is more supported by the presence of stray gold-colored particles in spots of the fan not intended for decoration, which could simply manifest when working with free powder (fig. 7).
The destruction to the fan’s outermost slat had resulted in a advanced crack with many individual items. Due to the fact preceding mend makes an attempt applying adhesive by yourself had unsuccessful, I resolved to test making use of a backing substance to help the damaged spot from powering. I selected Mylar, a skinny polyester movie, as it is transparent and would not disrupt the visible outcome of the fragile cutouts but it is also solid and rigid enough to supply suitable guidance to the weakened location. To examination this method, I produced yet another mock-up re-developing the fan’s cutout method, then broke the mockup in fifty percent and adhered the Mylar backing in position (fig. 8).
Just after completing the mock-up, I was ready to efficiently fix the first fan (fig. 9). The outcome is an item that is now visually coherent and constant with the artist’s originally intended physical appearance (fig. 10). It is also far more structurally steady and can be safely and securely exhibited in the long term.