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Saturday, June 2 • 11:00am - 11:30am
(Wooden Artifacts) Tilia and Tilt-A-Jet: abrasive jet-machining towards the treatment and re-mounting of a Grinling Gibbons overmantel

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A wooden overmantel by English master sculptor Grinling Gibbons (1648-1721) in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art was studied and treated in preparation for its exhibition in the museum’s British Galleries, the first time it will be on display in nearly a decade. The overmantel, an assemblage of limewood carvings imitating flowers, fruits, and foliage, is part of a larger group of decorative carvings made in 1675-1677 for Cassiobury Park, the country house of the first Earl of Essex near London. Cassiobury is notable for being among the first historic homes in England to feature what would become Gibbons’ signature style of contrasting light-colored bare wood carvings nailed directly onto dark oak paneling, highly novel at the time. The goal of examination and treatment was to stabilize the overmantel for installation and to regain some of the surface qualities that made Gibbons’ carvings so innovative. Measuring nearly 8 ft2 when assembled, the large overmantel was in poor condition both structurally and superficially, in part due to its having been previously mounted onto a painted quarter-inch plywood backing. The old mounting system was visually distracting and the long, thin boards flexed during transport and installation, causing the sections of the limewood carving – some of which were only attached to one another by a single nail – to grind against one another. Moreover, installation required placing drills in between carved sections in a way described by one art handler as “terrifying.” The surface was darkened, unevenly glossy, grimy overall and featured multiple mismatched replacement pieces. Examination and research into the history of the carvings revealed multiple campaigns of coatings, strippings, and re-coatings, as well as at least one instance of complete disassembly and rearrangement of the individual sections. The treatment allowed conservators the opportunity to perform materials analysis on the carvings, including wood identification through cross-section analysis, and analysis of the coating layers through cross-section, Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy (FTIR), and scanning electron microscopy paired with energy-dispersive X-ray spectroscopy (SEM/EDS). Treatment of the surface involved an overall cleaning and gloss reduction, while structural treatments included separating large swags into smaller sections, securing loose elements, consolidation, and the replacement of some missing parts of the carving. After the carvings were removed from their old mounts, a new mounting system was developed in collaboration with the Larry Sears and Sally Zlotnick Sears think[box] center at the campus of Case Western Reserve University. High-resolution images of the carvings’ versos were taken and used to create two-dimensional digital mount patterns in Adobe Illustrator. The authors trained with think[box] staff to operate the center’s new OMAX 5555 abrasive waterjet cutter to design and cut precisely-shaped mounts from 1/8th-inch thick aluminum. The new mounting system allows the large carvings to be more easily moved and installed and are nearly invisible to the viewer on display, permitting the work to regain its original, nailed-to-the-wall aesthetic.

avatar for Karen Bishop

Karen Bishop

Fellow, Garman Art Conservation Department State University of New York College at Buffalo
Karen Bishop is a second-year graduate fellow in Objects Conservation in the Patricia H. and Richard E. Garman Art Conservation Department at the State University of New York College at Buffalo. Last summer, Karen was the Isobel Rutherford graduate objects conservation intern at the... Read More →
avatar for Mary Wilcop

Mary Wilcop

Fellow in Objects Conservation, Yale University Art Gallery
Mary Wilcop is the Fellow in Objects Conservation at the Yale University Art Gallery. She was previously a third-year graduate intern in Objects Conservation at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. Mary received her M.A./C.A.S. in Art Conservation... Read More →

avatar for Marcus Brathwaite

Marcus Brathwaite

Fabrication Manager, think[box]
Marcus Brathwaite, Fabrication Manager of think[box], graduated from the Cleveland Institute of Art in 2013 with a B.F.A. in Ceramics. He approaches the operations of a makerspace from the perspective of a designer. In collaboration with his team, machines, tools, spacial layout... Read More →
avatar for Beth Edelstein

Beth Edelstein

Conservator of Objects, Cleveland Museum of Art
Beth Edelstein is currently Conservator of Objects at the Cleveland Museum of Art. Previously, she was an Associate Conservator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, focusing on the Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas. Beth earned her M.A. from the Conservation Center, Institute... Read More →
avatar for Colleen E. Snyder

Colleen E. Snyder

Conservator, Cleveland Museum of Art
Colleen Snyder received her B.A. in Mediterranean Archaeology from the University at Buffalo and went on to complete her M.A. in Art Conservation from Buffalo State College in 2008. Colleen is currently an Assistant Conservator of Objects at the Cleveland Museum of Art, where she... Read More →

Saturday June 2, 2018 11:00am - 11:30am MDT
Kingwood Meeting Room Marriott Marquis Houston