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Friday, June 1 • 9:00am - 9:30am
(Textiles) The Mortlake Horses: A Collaborative Approach to the Conservation of Seventeenth-Century British Tapestries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art

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In preparation for the fall 2019 re-opening of The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s renovated British Galleries, Associate Conservator Olha Yarema-Wynar and Assistant Conservator Alexandra Barlow completed the long-term conservation treatment of the seventeenth-century tapestry The Destruction of the Children of Niobe (#36.149.1) from the English Mortlake workshop. This tapestry is one of two within The Met’s collection from The Horses, a set which depicts riding horses found in Ovid’s Metamorphoses.
The Destruction of the Children of Niobe, measuring approximately twelve feet by twenty feet, is impressive in size and image. Past restoration efforts of this large artwork are visible throughout the piece, and within this one tapestry exists numerous examples of the techniques used in the history of tapestry preservation. The most recent treatment was informed by an understanding of these historic techniques and the skill and experience of the conservators.  Stimulating conversations with curators at The Metropolitan Museum of Art also influenced the treatment by helping to determine the aesthetic vision for the tapestry. These discussions presented a challenge on how to accommodate the vision of the curators with the conservators’ decisions about stabilization needs and the tenets of current conservation philosophy.
For both conservators and curators, historic repairs are a valuable document of prior methods. They provide an understanding of changes in technical skill, the effects of restorations, and the shifting viewpoints on the value of tapestries. The conservators working on this project were able to survey in detail these previous techniques. This presentation discusses both the methods that have proved stable, as well as those that have caused additional conservation issues over time. While many of the historic insertions are strong and discrete, earlier use of darning and mending stitches have caused distortions to the surrounding areas. It was only after careful dialogue and discussion on the stability of the textile that these previous repairs were documented, removed, and updated. Time was also a consideration throughout the entire treatment.
The 2016-2017 treatment involved both conservation and restoration stitching, as well as a combination of both handwoven fabric used for reproduction gallon borders and commercially available fabric for stabilization and the lining.
As a case study, this presents the examination of one object and how its materials and techniques provide critical annotation to the history of the preservation of tapestries.  

avatar for Alexandra Barlow

Alexandra Barlow

Assistant Conservator, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Alexandra Barlow, Assistant Conservator, is currently working with Olha Yarema-Wynar on the treatment of three large tapestries in preparation for the renovation of the British Galleries. She received her MA in Fashion and Textile Studies with a focus on Conservation from the Fashion... Read More →
avatar for Olha Yarema Wynar

Olha Yarema Wynar

Associate Conservator, The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Olha Yarema-Wynar, Associate Conservator, is responsible for the conservation of textiles from the Department of Arms and Armor and the Department of European Sculpture and Decorative Art's tapestries collection. She holds an MFA in decorative and applied arts from the Lviv National... Read More →

Friday June 1, 2018 9:00am - 9:30am MDT
River Oaks Meeting Room Marriott Marquis Houston
  6. Specialty Session, Textiles