Over the years, the Furniture Department of The Conservation Center has helped conserve many works of antique and fine furniture, both from museums and private clients. So this month, as the weather chills and we all get cozy in our big comfortable chairs, we wanted to highlight them, their work, and what we think are their best treatments.
The Center's Gilding Department specializes in the preservation of frames and objects with gold, silver, and metal leaf applied to the surface. A wonderful example of the type of projects our Gilding Conservators frequently undertake recently came to us in the form of a mirror in need of conservation.
The Conservation Center is proud to be part of a vast community of individuals and institutions dedicated to conserving the past. We recently had the opportunity to work with such an institution, the Oak Park Public Library, to help conserve a part of their history.
Are your furniture and wooden artifacts lacking the glow that they used to have? The culprit is most likely an aged, worn, or damaged wax layer. Wax coatings are applied on top of a finished piece of wood to act as a protective coating. Without this layer, foreign particulates, such as dirt or soot, could accumulate and settle into the finish. Old finishes are delicate and desirable and repeated cleaning of original surface can damage the patina. Particles and dust will inevitably settle on the surface of a piece and then become embedded in the sacrificial wax coat. The wax coat can then be easily removed without damaging the original finish.
One of the misconceptions concerning work performed at an art treatment facility such as The Conservation Center is that an object or a piece of art must have significant value on the market to qualify for professional care. This is simply not the case. While many of our clients have high-end pieces that belong to large-scale collections and museums, our conservators also specialize in treating family antiques and heirlooms that have sentimental value.
Family heirlooms connect generations in a deep, personal way. From the handed down bible and grandmother’s knitted quilt, to a late 1800s baptismal gown and photos of a relative going off to war—anyone who has found or kept historic pieces in the family knows how moving they can be. These treasured items, passed down through the decades, provide insight into the lives of our ancestors and a richer understanding of our family's history.
The weather's heating up, but there are no signs of slowing down at The Conservation Center. From intricate conservation projects to private tours, our staff is hard at work in West Town. To celebrate the new season, we are bringing back our popular "A Day in the Life" photo series. With our camera in hand, we wandered around the lab and captured some amazing images to share with you.
There are few rites of spring more satisfying than the annual clean. And while spotless living spaces make a house a home, many of us unfortunately have to use harsh chemicals and solvents to achieve that goal. The application of products found under the kitchen sink can lead to chemical reactions on the surface of art objects that can prove to be quite serious, resulting in detrimental losses that are usually so much greater than the reward of a home cleaning approach. When it comes to caring for your art and antiques while freshening up around the house, we strongly advise our readers to adhere to the “DDIY” rule—Don’t Do it Yourself—and leave the job to professional art conservators.
Woodworking shops through the centuries—from ancient Egypt all the way until the Industrial Revolution, have been, for the most part, relatively unchanged. Despite variations in readily available materials or slight alterations in technique passed on from master to master, the art of furniture making and conservation essentially revolves around a number of basic, yet important hand tools. Today, when the Antique and Fine Furniture Department at The Conservation Center in Chicago approaches repairs of dated objects, the conservators—Stephen Ryan, Michael Young, and Andrew Rigsby—strive to preserve the integrity of the original craftsmanship that has been passed down for generations.
The Cressent Boulle Clock is on view at The Conservation Center's Pop-Up Lab @ EXPO CHICAGO/2014 (Booth 113) from September 18–21.
Charles Cressent (1685-1768) was a descendant of a family of furniture makers and talented sculptors. As a pupil of André Charles Boulle (1642–1732)—the French cabinetmaker who is generally considered to be the preeminent artist in the field of marquetry—Cressent's work is characteristic of the Rococo period with adornments of feminine figures and motifs, floral Arabesques, and exotic animals. To combine the gilt-bronze elements of his unique style and to ensure the quality of his mounts, Cressent broke the rules of the French guild system and was prosecuted for practicing two professions in the same workshop—cabinetmaking and gilding.
The gateleg table is on view at The Conservation Center's Pop-Up Lab @ EXPO CHICAGO/2014 (Booth 113) from September 18–21.
This gateleg (folding) table is likely British or American due to the use of walnut and box wood inlay. Stylistically, it is a 19th copy of an original produced in the late 17th century. It references a simple, utilitarian style, but the flair in the marquetry nods to a later William and Mary motif. The table came to The Conservation Center with loose veneer, and missing areas in the turned legs. In addition, the previous treatment relied on heavily pigmented polish to disguise the poor quality repairs—which masked the decorative effect of the inlay and the burr walnut veneer.