By Adrienne Gendron, Gradutate Intern in Objects Conservation at the CMA
Couple of elements embody luxury much more absolutely than mom-of-pearl and gold. This mother-of-pearl fan is composed of 19 slats with gold-coloured inlay and cutout models showcasing butterflies and bouquets (fig. 1). The fan was produced by René Lalique, a French jeweler and glassmaker performing at the top of the Artwork Nouveau movement in the early 20th century. At that time, artists started to refocus on the great importance of the unique artist’s hand following a period of fascination with industrial processes. The Art Nouveau motion introduced an appreciation for natural and organic types, references to the all-natural world, and an affinity for Japanese model. At the same time, there was an outpouring of artistic effort into the realm of ornamental arts, resulting in a wealthy time period of creativeness and ornamentation of daily objects. Lalique was heralded as “the best jeweler performing in France” and was regarded for utilizing components animated by gentle (Harrison 2008, 29).
The mom-of-pearl made use of to create this Lalique enthusiast is quite slender (about the thickness of a quarter) and designed even more delicate due to the intricate cutout patterns. A long time ago, one of the slats broke into several parts. Past maintenance makes an attempt utilised an adhesive, but with this sort of a modest surface space to join, the repairs were being inherently weak and failed continuously. As aspect of my graduate internship with the museum’s objects conservation lab, I was asked to come across a much better alternative to this complicated trouble.
To do this, it is essential to assess an object and figure out the most correct treatment. Just after investigating the object’s cultural context, I identified that, as an Artwork Nouveau luxurious decorative arts item, the fan’s attractive appearance is paramount to its main this means. The item is no for a longer time visually coherent in its current ruined point out, and restoring it would return a degree of visible legibility to the item dependable with Lalique’s inventive custom. Its existing ailment also renders the item unstable and susceptible to further more destruction, so restoring the location would lessen hazard. With these considerations in head, I determined to understand as a lot as I could about the object and how it was created, in purchase to produce an suitable treatment prepare.
Inspecting the admirer beneath a microscope uncovered fascinating specifics. When at initially glance the slats show up to be built in one particular piece, skillfully executed joins are seen beneath magnification (fig. 3). The artist utilized at minimum two pieces of mother-of-pearl to build every single slat, utilizing a innovative splicing procedure to make the joins as invisible as doable. I could also see that the artist to start with mapped out the layouts in shallow incised strains (fig. 4). The narrow slits had been designed making use of a little drill to pierce holes, which had been then elongated into slits with a jeweler’s observed.
The front of the supporter is also embellished with incised traces, which are loaded with gold-coloured substance . The incisions have angled sides, indicating that they ended up produced working with a pointed resource. Less than the microscope, the gold content appears to be like many individual particles as opposed to a single sheet of metal, suggesting that it was used as a powder rather than as a leaf (fig. 5).
At to start with look the gold-colored substance and metal loop appeared to be pure gold even so, issues are not constantly as they appear to be! I employed portable X-ray fluorescence (pXRF), a non harmful analytical system that delivers data on elemental composition, to find out extra. I found that the gold-colored materials includes brass, a copper and zinc alloy, along with some gold. My examination of the steel loop prompt that it is probable composed of a copper alloy base metallic that has been gold plated.
Subsequent, I designed mock-ups to get a palms-on knowing of how the lover was manufactured. Making use of sample items of mother-of-pearl, I developed incised channels with a Dremel tool and analyzed 3 strategies of applying gold-colored fill: flash gilding (gold powder applied above a binder), shell gold (gold particles suspended in a gum arabic medium and utilized as paint), and mordant gilding (gold leaf utilized more than a binder) (fig. 6). I uncovered that the flash gilding process gave an overall look most related to the regions on the Lalique fan. This theory is further supported by the existence of stray gold-coloured particles in locations of the enthusiast not supposed for decoration, which could simply come about when doing the job with free powder (fig. 7).
The destruction to the fan’s outermost slat had resulted in a elaborate break with multiple independent pieces. Mainly because past mend makes an attempt applying adhesive by itself experienced unsuccessful, I resolved to try out utilizing a backing product to guidance the broken region from powering. I chose Mylar, a thin polyester movie, as it is clear and would not disrupt the visible outcome of the delicate cutouts but it is also robust and rigid enough to offer suitable support to the destroyed location. To test this method, I produced another mock-up re-creating the fan’s cutout method, then broke the mockup in half and adhered the Mylar backing in location (fig. 8).
After finishing the mock-up, I was capable to successfully maintenance the original supporter (fig. 9). The outcome is an object that is now visually coherent and consistent with the artist’s at first supposed physical appearance (fig. 10). It is also extra structurally secure and can be properly exhibited in the upcoming.