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Subject: Fill material for polychrome sculpture

Fill material for polychrome sculpture

From: Helena Jaeschke <helena.jaeschke<-a>
Date: Monday, June 2, 2008
Katja Cadogan <katjaai [at] evtek__fi> writes

>I am a furniture conservation student from Finland working on a East
>Asian Bodhisattwa statue dated from around 1900, from the Qing
>dynasty. The statue is made of wood and the backing material is
>gypsum, surface finnish is lacquer and gilding. There are traces of
>urushi lacquer with a lot of retouched places using wax and shellac.
>... What
>kind of filling material could I use to fill these hollow parts and
>should I make holes in to those places where the surface is still
>intact to get the hollow bit filled? Would anybody have some kind of
>experience with this kind of polychrome sculptures?

Why do the voids need filling? Is the surface breaking or
collapsing? Is the statue being moved or handled in such a way that
there is a risk of the surface over the voids being broken?  If it
is not immediately necessary to fill the voids, is it possible to
leave them, rather than risk further problems in the future?

I would not recommend puncturing the intact surface over any void.

If the problem has arisen from excessive shrinkage of the wood, has
this arisen because the item was stored for long periods in an
environment with a very low relative humidity ? If so, is it
possible to SLOWLY improve the relative humidity? This should be
undertaken before any work to fill voids.

If the problem has arisen because the wood has been exposed to
excessive moisture, followed by a period in an environment of low
relative humidity, has any shrinkage resulted form fungal damage ?
This needs to be investigated before undertaking any treatment of
the voids.

I'm sorry to answer your question with more questions, but more
information is needed at this stage before you begin testing
possible fill materials. Hope this helps,

Helena Jaeschke
Conservation Development Officer
Royal Albert Memorial Museum
Exeter Ark
Exton Road
Marsh Barton
Exeter EX2 8LX
+44 1392 665951

                  Conservation DistList Instance 21:64
                   Distributed: Sunday, June 8, 2008
                       Message Id: cdl-21-64-002
Received on Monday, 2 June, 2008

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