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Meticulously Mending Fragments of a Fan | by Cleveland Museum of Art | CMA Thinker | Mar, 2022

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By Adrienne Gendron, Gradutate Intern in Objects Conservation at the CMA

Fig. 1: Enthusiast, c. 1900. 2009.79. René Lalique (French, 1860–1945). Mother-of-pearl, gold, silk open up and extended: 21.5 x 37 x 1.8 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Artwork, Acquire from the J. H. Wade Fund, 2009.79. Graphic: David Brichford (CMA)

Few elements embody luxury a lot more entirely than mom-of-pearl and gold. This mother-of-pearl supporter is composed of 19 slats with gold-colored inlay and cutout patterns showcasing butterflies and bouquets (fig. 1). The admirer was built by René Lalique, a French jeweler and glassmaker doing the job at the height of the Artwork Nouveau motion in the early 20th century. At that time, artists began to refocus on the significance of the personal artist’s hand immediately after a period of time of fascination with industrial procedures. The Artwork Nouveau motion introduced an appreciation for organic and natural varieties, references to the natural earth, and an affinity for Japanese design and style. At the same time, there was an outpouring of inventive energy into the realm of attractive arts, ensuing in a abundant period of time of creative imagination and ornamentation of every day objects. Lalique was heralded as “the greatest jeweler performing in France” and was identified for utilizing components animated by mild (Harrison 2008, 29).

The mom-of-pearl employed to develop this Lalique admirer is really thin (about the thickness of a quarter) and designed even much more delicate thanks to the intricate cutout layouts. Several years in the past, one particular of the slats broke into many pieces. Earlier repair service tries utilised an adhesive, but with such a small surface space to be a part of, the repairs ended up inherently weak and failed frequently. As aspect of my graduate internship with the museum’s objects conservation lab, I was questioned to locate a much better solution to this difficult challenge.

Fig. 2: Detail exhibiting the damaged slat with very small mother-of-pearl slivers.

To do this, it is vital to evaluate an object and decide the most proper cure. Right after studying the object’s cultural context, I determined that, as an Art Nouveau luxurious decorative arts item, the fan’s wonderful overall look is paramount to its main which means. The item is no lengthier visually coherent in its existing ruined condition, and repairing it would return a diploma of visible legibility to the object consistent with Lalique’s artistic custom. Its current ailment also renders the object unstable and vulnerable to further more harm, so restoring the location would lessen chance. With these criteria in brain, I made the decision to discover as considerably as I could about the object and how it was produced, in get to create an suitable cure strategy.

(Left) Fig. 3: Photomicrograph (5x) exhibiting the spliced be part of between two sections of mother-of-pearl. Also noticeable are the spherical drill holes utilized to start off the linear slits in the upper-proper corner. (Ideal) Fig. 4: Photomicrograph (5x) showing the incised lines utilised to approach out the patterns
Fig. 5: Photomicrograph (20x) showing the incised channels with triangular cross section (seen at remaining) and the unique particles of gold-coloured inlay.

Analyzing the fan underneath a microscope revealed intriguing facts. Whilst at initially look the slats appear to be manufactured in a single piece, skillfully executed joins are obvious beneath magnification (fig. 3). The artist applied at minimum two pieces of mother-of-pearl to create just about every slat, using a sophisticated splicing system to make the joins as invisible as achievable. I could also see that the artist initially mapped out the patterns in shallow incised lines (fig. 4). The narrow slits had been made utilizing a small drill to pierce holes, which had been then elongated into slits with a jeweler’s saw.

The entrance of the supporter is also adorned with incised traces, which are loaded with gold-colored content . The incisions have angled sides, indicating that they were manufactured employing a pointed device. Beneath the microscope, the gold materials seems like numerous specific particles as opposed to a one sheet of steel, suggesting that it was applied as a powder rather than as a leaf (fig. 5).

Fig. 6: Photomicrographs (10x) of mock ups for flash gilding (left), mordant gilding (centre), and shell gold (right).

At 1st look the gold-coloured product and steel loop appeared to be pure gold even so, points are not generally as they seem! I made use of moveable X-ray fluorescence (pXRF), a non damaging analytical strategy that gives details on elemental composition, to uncover out muc
h more. I identified that the gold-coloured material contains brass, a copper and zinc alloy, along with some gold. My investigation of the steel loop prompt that it is possible composed of a copper alloy foundation metal that has been gold plated.

Fig. 7: Photomicrograph (10x) showing the presence of stray gold-colored particles trapped in the linear slits outdoors of the intended style and design parts, suggesting that a free powder was applied.

Next, I designed mock-ups to gain a fingers-on knowing of how the lover was built. Utilizing sample pieces of mom-of-pearl, I created incised channels with a Dremel instrument and tested three techniques of making use of gold-coloured fill: flash gilding (gold powder used above a binder), shell gold (gold particles suspended in a gum arabic medium and used as paint), and mordant gilding (gold leaf used about a binder) (fig. 6). I located that the flash gilding technique gave an look most equivalent to the areas on the Lalique fan. This concept is additional supported by the presence of stray gold-coloured particles in spots of the admirer not supposed for decoration, which could easily occur when operating with unfastened powder (fig. 7).

Fig. 8: The damaged mom-of-pearl mock-up and Mylar backing (still left) the repaired mock-up with Mylar backing adhered in put (appropriate).

The harm to the fan’s outermost slat had resulted in a sophisticated break with various individual items. Simply because preceding repair makes an attempt applying adhesive by yourself experienced failed, I made a decision to consider employing a backing content to aid the broken place from guiding. I selected Mylar, a skinny polyester movie, as it is clear and would not disrupt the visible outcome of the fragile cutouts but it is also potent and rigid plenty of to offer satisfactory assist to the ruined area. To examination this technique, I created one more mock-up re-building the fan’s cutout approach, then broke the mockup in fifty percent and adhered the Mylar backing in location (fig. 8).

Fig. 9: Depth photos demonstrating the accomplished mend before (still left) and following (proper). Visuals: David Brichford

Soon after completing the mock-up, I was capable to properly fix the first supporter (fig. 9). The consequence is an item that is now visually coherent and consistent with the artist’s originally meant visual appeal (fig. 10). It is also additional structurally stable and can be securely displayed in the foreseeable future.

Fig. 10: Total just after-remedy picture. Impression by David Brichford (CMA)

Zoom in on this French enthusiast and several some others by exploring the search phrase “fan” in Selection On the internet. Which style catches your eye?

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