Friday, June 1 • 3:30pm - 4:00pm
43. (Research and Technical Studies) Laying with Tiffany: Conservation of the Swan Memorial Glass Mosaic at Woodlawn Cemetery

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The glass designs of Louis Comfort Tiffany and his studio were unparalleled in American art of the late 19th and early 20th century. Less known, but no less significant were the studio’s architectural mosaic and monument designs. Historians have begun to research commissions but much remains to be done on the original fabrication and conservation of this work. The Swan Monument was designed by Tiffany Studios and installed in Woodlawn Cemetery in 1914. The mosaic was commissioned from Tiffany by Helen M.W. Swan for her late husband Charles. The first phase of a conservation study on the monument documented current conditions, analyzed materials and fabrication, determined deterioration mechanisms, and identified potential conservation methods. The canopy style monument is ten feet tall and composed of Tiffany granite, a variegated pink granite quarried in Braintree, MA. A 2’8 ½” x 6’11” art-glass mosaic panel fills the central panel of the structure and is covered by a shallow portico. The scene is likely influenced by Pre-Raphaelite imagery and depicts an angel guiding a woman into a heavenly landscape. The composition is enhanced by the dramatic curvature of the angel’s wing and by the artisan’s usage of the firm’s infamous iridescent glass on both the angel and the idyllic countryside to emphasize their celestial quality. The memorial is unique among the large collection of Tiffany Studios’ works found in Woodlawn, in that its mosaic is open-air and readily visible to the public, and it is one of only a small number of extant memorials of its kind in the United States. The exposure of the mosaic contributes to its surface decay and the loss of many of the glass tesserae over the past century. Records from Woodlawn Cemetery indicate that the memorial began shedding glass and needed repair less than four years after installation. Over the years, some tesserae were recovered and replaced during repair campaigns while many others were lost. Consequently, the mosaic now has significant areas of loss and many areas of the remaining glass display corrosion and conchoidal spalling from prolonged contact with water and other damaging substances. XRD analysis determined that the original backing material was made of Keene’s cement, a gypsiferous, hard plaster, and was reinforced with metal bars. SEM and SEM-EDS were used to analyze the surface topography and chemical makeup of samples of degraded tesserae as well as to analyze the effect of a micro abrasive treatment to remove a thin layer of corroded glass from the tessera surface in an effort to expose the fully-saturated, colored glass underneath. Removal of this thin layer of color-leached silica on affected tesserae and re-coating with a protective layer of Acryloid B-72 returns the glass tesserae to their original appearance and protects their surfaces from future exposure. Conservation of the monument based on testing results is currently underway. The extant art glass is being stabilized, detached tesserae re-attached, and missing tesserae will be cut and replaced in-kind from donations of similar sheets of Tiffany glass when available.

avatar for Courtney Magill

Courtney Magill

Lab Manager, University of Pennsylvania
Courtney Magill is the lab manager for the Architectural Conservation Laboratory and a post-graduate fellow at the University of Pennsylvania. She graduated from the University of Georgia with dual Bachelor of Arts degrees in art history and classical culture in 2011. Through her... Read More →

avatar for Frank Matero-[PA]

Frank Matero-[PA]

Professor of Architecture, University of Pennsylvania Architectural Conservation Laboratory
Frank G. Matero is Professor of Architecture and Chair of the Graduate Program in Historic Preservation at the School of Design at the University of Pennsylvania. He is Director and founder of the Architectural Conservation Laboratory and a member of the Graduate Group in the Department... Read More →

Friday June 1, 2018 3:30pm - 4:00pm
Texas Ballroom (Foyer outside Ballrooms - Poster Session) Marriott Marquis Houston

Attendees (19)