CASE STUDY

Le Jour de Gloire est Arrivé

Cleaning and replacement of old restorations on a marble statue of Napoleon by Italian artist, Aristide Petrilli.

Privately Owned


The object is a carved Carrara marble statue of Napoleon, titled Le Jour de Gloire est Arrivé (The Day of Glory has Arrived). It’s signed by Prof. Aristide Petrilli, an Italian sculptor active between the late 19th to early 20th centuries, and it was fashioned after the painting Bonaparte Crossing the Alps (1801) by Jacques-Louis David. The statue measures approximately 39” x  35” x 15” and rests atop a 52 ½” high marble pedestal, believed to be original to the piece.

THE OBJECT

BEFORE TREATMENT 

 

CONDITION

Hover mouse over legend to view annotated map of breaks and previous epoxy restorations.

BEFORE TREATMENT 

The statue contained structural repairs and reconstructions in several areas. Multiple campaigns of repairs were evident, but research found the most recent restorations were done in 2003 by a private restoration specialist. Visually, these repairs were inadequate and distracting for the piece. They didn’t match the marble in texture nor color, and also failed to match the carving stylistically. 

BEFORE TREATMENT 

DURING TREATMENT 

Left: A crude reconstruction of a missing area of reigns held in Napoleon's left hand.

Above: Napoleon's right hand after plaster and paint was removed from joins and from the reconstructed index finger.

The 2003 reconstructions were executed in a cream-colored epoxy putty that was subsequently disguised with plaster and acrylic paint. Errant repair materials were found messily on the statue’s surface, and although some soluble adhesive was found at a few join areas, the epoxy putty was largely bonded directly to the stone surface in every instance, making the restorations lack a safe reversibility. 

A metal pin was found supporting the join between the horse’s body and tail, and a screw was used unnecessarily in the previous restoration to attach Napoleon’s index finger.

An irreversible liquid epoxy had also been used at two areas for joining: at Napoleon’s wrist and in a section of repair in the horse’s front, proper right leg.

There was an accumulation of dark dirt and dust on the surface, and yellowish-brown stains were present in broad and blotchy areas, especially on the horse’s legs, Napoleon’s lower jacket and proper right leg, and on the shield. The yellow discolorations suggested the piece had been touched repeatedly over the years, which transferred skin oils that stained the stone. 

BEFORE TREATMENT 

DURING TREATMENT 

 

 

The statue was cleaned, stains were removed or reduced, and the surface received a protective wax coating. Previous joins were not able to be safely reversed, however old reconstructions and old fills were removed and replaced with visually and chemically appropriate materials that are readily reversible. New reconstructions better match the carving stylistically.

TREATMENT

Detail of the cleaning gel-poultice drawing out yellow stains from the porous marble.

Loose dirt, dust and other particulates were first removed by vacuum. Next, the statue was cleaned wholesale using a specially formulated cleaning solution in a Methylcellulose (MC) gel-poultice. The cleaning solution, termed “Berret/Wolbers” (hereafter “B/W”), was a 5% concentration of ammonium citrate, ammonium chloride, and ammonium hydroxide in deionized water (2.7: 2.6: 1: 100 v/v), conditioned to pH ~9 using ammonium hydroxide. The 5% B/W solution was loaded into a 7% MC gel 2:1 v/v (gel:solution). The gel-poultice was refrigerated and allowed to sit until it reached a workable stiffness, and ammonium hydroxide was added as necessary to give it an appropriate pH for the marble.

DURING TREATMENT 

The gel-poultice was applied once, to large sections of the statue at a time, at a thickness ~ 1cm. Each section of poulticing was allowed to sit overnight for approximately 12-16 hours, after which it had mostly become a thin, dry film on the surface. To avoid pulling crystals from the marble’s surface due to the adhesion of the MC, the dried poultice material was lightly sprayed with tap water until it partially re-gelled into a flexible film that gently lifted and peeled away from the marble like a skin. After removing each round of B/W gel-poultice, the surface was rinsed thoroughly with tap water to clear away any residual cleaning product, and then patted dry with clean towels.

Yellow staining that remained was able to be further reduced using 5% triammonium citrate in an Arbocel BC 1000/ Arbocel BC 200/ MC poultice (pH = 8-9). This seemed to mobilize the staining and drive it away from the surface more than remove it. The ratio of components were added and mixed by hand until the poultice reached a favorable dough-like consistency.

Select areas of staining were chosen for localized poulticing. Poultices were allowed to dry or nearly dry before they were removed and the areas rinsed with tap water. Saran wrap was needed to direct the route of evaporation so that stains wouldn’t settle at the poultice edge.

 

Removal of Old Restorations

Since most of the old epoxy restorations were bonded directly to the stone, they could only be removed mechanically, through slow and careful use of scalpels, small diamond files and a Dremel Micro rotary tool. Old fills were removed and brought down as possible. Old reconstructions were freed from the statue, and all remaining foreign material cleaned away from the join areas. 

Errant plaster from the previous restoration was easily removed with bamboo skewers, while insoluble fill material had to be first shaved down using the Dremel with a sanding/grinding bit, and then removed with more precision by scalpel.

Overall, yellow staining was removed or reduced from the statue, and the surface was cleaned of all foreign restoration material.

 

Photographs from 2003 suggested the statue acquired the yellow staining over a relatively short period of time, and given its public location, it was decided the surface of the marble would benefit from a protective wax coating at the end of treatment. A thin coating of Cosmoloid 80H was applied to the surface after reconstructions and fills were replaced. This provided a measure of protection against skin oils and other soiling, as well as contributed to the aesthetic of the piece. After drying, the wax was buffed, and then calcium carbonate powder was dusted over the surface by brush to dull the shine and tack of the wax, as well as to help create a more even surface.

Fabrication of New Reconstructions

First, models of the new elements were shaped and carved out of epoxy putty (Apoxie Sculpt), designed to fit the join surfaces on the statue. A silicone rubber mold was made of each model using Copyflex, from which the new reconstructions were cast in a bulked epoxy mixture formulated to match the characteristics of the marble. This mixture was composed of 1:3 liquid epoxy (Hxtal NYL-1): Carrara marble dust (0.1-0.6mm). Ultra-fine calcium carbonate powder (1.6µm) was added to achieve greater whiteness and opacity, and bits of mica and ground pigment were embedded in the castings to mimic veins of dark inclusions in the marble.

Old reconstructions were sometimes used as the foundation for shaping the models of the new reconstructions, such as for Napoleon's right index finger. Old epoxy was shaved down and carved, and new epoxy added, until the pieces accurately rendered the style and proportions of the corresponding original elements.

Silicone rubber molds were made of the epoxy putty models. Legos (yes Legos!) were conveniently built into appropriately sized wells to hold the silicone rubber when creating the molds.

After reaching full cure in the mold, newly cast reconstructions were finished with diamond files and attached to the statue using concentrated Paraloid B-72 in acetone. The same resin bulked with Carrara marble dust was used to visually integrate join lines and fill areas of loss.

Group of small, newly reconstructed portions of the statue cast in the bulked liquid epoxy mixture designed to imitate the characteristics of the marble.

The model of Napoleon's new index finger (left) and its final casting (right) before its attachment to the statue.

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Side-by-side comparisons of new reconstructions adjacent to corresponding original areas of the statue.

Each new reconstruction was designed to respect the artist’s intent and blend seamlessly with the statue by reproducing the style and quality of the original carving, as well as the particular optical properties of the marble.

 

Results Gallery

Using visually and chemically appropriate materials and techniques, the conservation treatment of Le Jour de Gloire est Arrivé returned the statue to a more honest state, respecting its future care and making possible its enjoyment by future generations.

 

Materials & Suppliers

Acryloid (Paraloid) B-72ethyl methacrylate (70%) and methyl acrylate (30%) copolymer
Talas (#TFK028002)
330 Morgan Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11211
http://www.talasonline.com/

 

Ammonium ChlorideNH₄Cl
Home Science Tools
665 Carbon Street
Billings, MT 59102
800-860-6272

 

Ammonium Citrate Dibasic(HN4)2HC6H5O7
Talas (#TCD120002)
330 Morgan Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11211
http://www.talasonline.com/

 

Ammonium Citrate TribasicC6H17N3O7
MuseuM Services Corporation
385 Bridgepoint Way
South St. Paul, Minnesota 55075-2466
+1-651-450-8954

Ammonium HydroxideNH4OH
Home Science Tools
665 Carbon Street
Billings, MT 59102
800-860-6272


Apoxie Sculpt, AVEStwo-part epoxy putty
Aves Studio, LLC
455 HWY 35 South,
Hudson, WI 54016
(715) 386-9097


Arbocel BC 1000100% cellulose fibers, long (0.7 mm)
Inv. #: 59750.13010.140
Kremer Pigments in New York
247 West 29th Street
New York, NY 10001
Phone (212) 219-2394
info@kremerpigments.com


Arbocel BC 200100% cellulose fibers, medium (0.3 mm)
Inv. #: 59755.13010.140
Kremer Pigments in New York
247 West 29th Street
New York, NY 10001
Phone (212) 219-2394
info@kremerpigments.com

 

Calcium Carbonate Powderultra fine, 1.6 μm
Talas (#TCD012005)
330 Morgan Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11211
http://www.talasonline.com/

CopyFlex®food-grade, liquid silicone rubber
Make Your Own Molds (MYOM)
Culinart Inc.
7609 Production Drive
Cincinnati, OH 45237
(513) 244-2999


Cosmoloid 80Ha blend of microcrystalline waxes
Talas (#TCD021001)
330 Morgan Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11211
http://www.talasonline.com/

 

Gamblin Dry Pigmentstitanium dioxide, ivory black and yellow ochre
Gamblin Artists Colors
2734 SE Raymond St
Portland, Oregon 97202 USA
+1-503-235-1945


Hxtal (NYL-1)two-part liquid epoxy (diglycidyl ether of bisphenol A and triethylene diamine)
Talas (#TAD014002)
330 Morgan Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11211
http://www.talasonline.com/


Marble Dust (White Carrara)0.2-0.6 mm grain sizes
Inv. #: 59611.13010.140
Kremer Pigments in New York
247 West 29th Street
New York, NY 10001
Phone (212) 219-2394
info@kremerpigments.com


Methyl Cellulosea cellulose ether with a methyl functional group
Talas (#TAD016003)
330 Morgan Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11211
http://www.talasonline.com/


Mica Flakesfine muscovite mica, 1-3 mm
Inv. #: 53020.12100.136
Kremer Pigments in New York
247 West 29th Street
New York, NY 10001
Phone (212) 219-2394
info@kremerpigments.com

 

 

AFTER TREATMENT

Privately Owned

 

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