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Thursday, May 29 • 4:00pm - 4:30pm
(Wooden Artifacts Session) The Conservation of “The Cattails,” a Royal Sleigh at Versailles (circa 1740)

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The third WAG paper in a series on sleigh conservation at Versailles, this talk will focus on the conservation treatment of the sleigh “The Cattails.” Made for Louis XV, it was used during snowy winters in the park at Versailles as late as the reign of Napoleon I. Its unusual construction, of papier-mâché over a wood substrate, and decoration of elaborate aventurine lacquer, posed special treatment problems. Conservation involved the development of a new fill material, tested with artificial aging in 2005 at the French national Center for Research and Conservation of Graphic Documents (CRCDG).

A second program of research involved analysis of the polychrome decoration. This employed fluorescence microscopy, Fourier Transform Infrared (FTIR) spectroscopy, Scanning Electron Microscopy- Energy Dispersive Spectroscopy (SEM-EDS), Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectroscopy (GC-MS) and High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC). The original lacquer was seen to contain, in some areas, flakes of an alloy of silver and gold. Other areas were originally decorated with gold leaf, silver leaf, and green luster gilding. A later lacquer, also discussed in this paper, is now the visible; it likely dates to the late 18th century and has darkened with aging.

The careful conservation of the sleigh and all 18th century coatings will be discussed. This included the stabilization of wood, papier-mâché and lacquers, and the re-establishment of adhesion between all three.

The paper will also review the properties of the new fill material, containing cotton paper fibers and calcium carbonate-coated, hollow acrylonitrile micro-spheres in an acrylic emulsion. As the treatment was conducted in 2005-2006, it is now possible to re-evaluate the results of treatment after several years. As predicted by aging tests, the fill material remains stable and successfully allows movement of the wood with changes in RH, without disruption of the papier-mâché, lacquer or inpainting.

avatar for Christopher Augerson

Christopher Augerson

Conservator, Augerson Art Conservation
In addition to being a Professional Associate of the AIC, Chistopher Augerson is accredited as a conservator in the UK, France and Belgium. He has conducted conservation projects for private clients and public institutions such as English Heritage, The National Trust for Scotland... Read More →

Thursday May 29, 2014 4:00pm - 4:30pm PDT
Regency Room