Conservation DistList Archives [Date] [Subject] [Author] [SEARCH]

Subject: Alabaster sculpture

Alabaster sculpture

From: Ali McKenzie-Murdoch <alimckenziemurdoch>
Date: Wednesday, February 23, 2000
I am a final year student studying conservation at The City and
Guilds of London Art School and am looking for information about
alabaster for my thesis.

The aim of this thesis is to establish the causes and mechanisms of
the surface decay of alabaster, how it is related to the use the
stone is or has historically been put to (focussing on 20th c
sculpture), or its inherent nature, and subsequent surface
treatments. Cleaning is specifically discussed, drawing on
conclusions gained from relevant literature and from the practical
experience of being involved in the cleaning of Epstein's alabaster
'Jacob and the Angel' in the Tate Gallery Sculpture Conservation
department, with proposals for further investigations.

The importance of working technique, historical use, finishing and
coating, is discussed, with the aim of establishing possible
problems that may arise, by a comparison between the use of
alabaster in the medieval and 20th century eras. A comprehensive
survey of 20th century alabaster sculpture, processes and finishes
is undertaken, including interviews with contemporary artists who
have used the stone, in order to better establish working methods,
and provide documentation in relation to intended finishes.

Because of its nature, specifically its solubility in water,
alabaster poses difficulties in cleaning.The effect on the structure
and chemistry of alabaster, by different solvents, is discussed as
are tests to establish the degree of damage sustained during
cleaning by these solvents.The aim is to establish an appropriate
methodology for the evaluation of damage induced during cleaning, in
order to propose that further investigation is required to enable
the conservation of alabaster in the most appropriate manner.

    Does anyone know of any current research into the conservation
    of alabaster--specifically in regard to cleaning? or less recent
    research? (other than Charlotte Hubbard's article in the V&A
    Journal 1993)

    Has anyone worked on a 20th century alabaster sculpture?

    How does working method affect disintegration-finishing
    techniques ( lubricants, abrasives), woodcarving tools as
    opposed to stone carving tools, different types of chisel?

    The sculptor Alison Wilding told me that she didn't wax her
    alabaster sculpture 'Harbour' because she didn't want to seal up
    the stone because "in a damp place the stone sweats and turns
    purple"...? If alabaster can undergo such a colour change, what
    is the explanation for this?

    Can anyone enlighten me as to how when alabaster is heated it
    can loose its water of crystallisation?

    Could someone recommend tests for the evaluation of surface
    changes, including measurement of surface roughness?

I would greatly appreciate any insight into these questions,

Ali McKenzie-Murdoch

                  Conservation DistList Instance 13:45
                 Distributed: Friday, February 25, 2000
                       Message Id: cdl-13-45-038
Received on Wednesday, 23 February, 2000

[Search all CoOL documents]