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


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 prolonged: 21.5 x 37 x 1.8 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Artwork, Purchase from the J. H. Wade Fund, 2009.79. Impression: David Brichford (CMA)

Several resources embody luxury far more totally than mom-of-pearl and gold. This mother-of-pearl lover is composed of 19 slats with gold-coloured inlay and cutout designs featuring butterflies and flowers (fig. 1). The supporter was made by René Lalique, a French jeweler and glassmaker functioning at the peak of the Art Nouveau motion in the early 20th century. At that time, artists began to refocus on the worth of the specific artist’s hand just after a period of time of fascination with industrial procedures. The Artwork Nouveau movement released an appreciation for natural kinds, references to the pure environment, and an affinity for Japanese model. Simultaneously, there was an outpouring of creative effort into the realm of decorative arts, resulting in a wealthy time period of creativity and ornamentation of day to day objects. Lalique was heralded as “the best jeweler performing in France” and was regarded for utilizing products animated by light (Harrison 2008, 29).

The mother-of-pearl utilised to generate this Lalique fan is fairly skinny (about the thickness of a quarter) and produced even additional fragile thanks to the intricate cutout designs. Many years in the past, a single of the slats broke into a number of parts. Past maintenance tries applied an adhesive, but with these kinds of a little surface area place to sign up for, the repairs had been inherently weak and unsuccessful repeatedly. As part of my graduate internship with the museum’s objects conservation lab, I was questioned to discover a better option to this challenging problem.

Fig. 2: Depth displaying the broken slat with very small mother-of-pearl slivers.

To do this, it is significant to evaluate an item and figure out the most proper treatment. After studying the object’s cultural context, I established that, as an Art Nouveau luxury ornamental arts object, the fan’s beautiful overall look is paramount to its core this means. The item is no extended visually coherent in its present damaged point out, and fixing it would return a degree of visible legibility to the object reliable with Lalique’s inventive custom. Its present ailment also renders the item unstable and susceptible to further more destruction, so restoring the space would decrease chance. With these considerations in thoughts, I resolved to understand as a great deal as I could about the item and how it was manufactured, in get to establish an acceptable treatment strategy.

(Left) Fig. 3: Photomicrograph (5x) showing the spliced sign up for in between two sections of mother-of-pearl. Also visible are the spherical drill holes used to begin the linear slits in the upper-suitable corner. (Correct) Fig. 4: Photomicrograph (5x) demonstrating the incised strains used to strategy out the types
Fig. 5: Photomicrograph (20x) displaying the incised channels with triangular cross portion (visible at still left) and the distinctive particles of gold-coloured inlay.

Examining the admirer underneath a microscope disclosed intriguing details. When at first glance the slats seem to be produced in a single piece, skillfully executed joins are visible beneath magnification (fig. 3). The artist used at least two pieces of mother-of-pearl to develop each individual slat, using a advanced splicing strategy to make the joins as invisible as doable. I could also see that the artist first mapped out the styles in shallow incised lines (fig. 4). The slender slits ended up made making use of a modest drill to pierce holes, which have been then elongated into slits with a jeweler’s saw.

The entrance of the enthusiast is also decorated with incised strains, which are stuffed with gold-coloured content . The incisions have angled sides, indicating that they were being designed applying a pointed software. Beneath the microscope, the gold material appears to be like several unique particles as opposed to a solitary sheet of steel, suggesting that it was utilized as a powder somewhat than as a leaf (fig. 5).

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

At initially glance the gold-colored material and metal loop appeared to be pure gold nevertheless, issues are not normally as they seem to be! I made use of transportable X-ray fluorescence (pXRF), a non harmful analytical technique that provides details on elemental composition, to come acros
s out extra. I found that the gold-coloured substance incorporates brass, a copper and zinc alloy, together with some gold. My investigation of the metal loop advised that it is very likely composed of a copper alloy foundation steel that has been gold plated.

Fig. 7: Photomicrograph (10x) demonstrating the existence of stray gold-colored particles trapped in the linear slits outside of the intended design and style spots, suggesting that a loose powder was made use of.

Following, I developed mock-ups to gain a hands-on knowledge of how the enthusiast was created. Applying sample pieces of mother-of-pearl, I designed incised channels with a Dremel device and examined 3 techniques of implementing gold-coloured fill: flash gilding (gold powder utilized over a binder), shell gold (gold particles suspended in a gum arabic medium and used as paint), and mordant gilding (gold leaf utilized in excess of a binder) (fig. 6). I found that the flash gilding approach gave an physical appearance most related to the spots on the Lalique fan. This idea is even more supported by the existence of stray gold-colored particles in spots of the admirer not supposed for decoration, which could simply come about when functioning with unfastened powder (fig. 7).

Fig. 8: The broken mom-of-pearl mock-up and Mylar backing (still left) the fixed mock-up with Mylar backing adhered in put (suitable).

The injury to the fan’s outermost slat experienced resulted in a complex break with multiple independent pieces. Mainly because prior restore makes an attempt using adhesive by itself experienced failed, I decided to try making use of a backing content to support the broken place from guiding. I selected Mylar, a slim polyester movie, as it is transparent and would not disrupt the visual impact of the sensitive cutouts but it is also sturdy and rigid sufficient to give enough aid to the ruined area. To test this technique, I made another mock-up re-generating the fan’s cutout system, then broke the mockup in 50 % and adhered the Mylar backing in position (fig. 8).

Fig. 9: Detail photographs displaying the completed repair prior to (remaining) and soon after (right). Photos: David Brichford

Immediately after finishing the mock-up, I was ready to productively repair service the initial fan (fig. 9). The outcome is an object that is now visually coherent and reliable with the artist’s originally supposed visual appearance (fig. 10). It is also a lot more structurally secure and can be safely displayed in the foreseeable future.

Fig. 10: Over-all following-treatment image. Image by David Brichford (CMA)

Zoom in on this French admirer and many many others by seeking the keyword “fan” in Selection On the web. Which design and style catches your eye?


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