Restoration of Caldecott Memorial
STAGE 2: REMOVAL OF THE COATING
Since beginning work on the Caldecott Memorial and inspecting it under better lighting conditions, it has become apparent that the coating which has been applied to the child is also present in large, patchy areas on the surrounding bronze and stone work. This coating is now a reddish, dark brown colour and where thickly applied, is still soft. There is also a waxy build up in the details of the bronze columns and capitals.
Finding the coating on the stone work and noting its haphazard application led me to believe that the coating is not an original toning glaze which has discoloured, as I first thought, but rather a coating applied by St Paul's cleaning staff in the past, with the good intention of rendering the monument clean and bright.
Discussions with the Clerk of the Works and the Cathedral Carver revealed that raw linseed oil mixed with beeswax and white spirit or turpentine was applied to numerous artifacts in the Cathedral (this was stopped in 1998), he confirmed that the coating on the memorial looks like this linseed mix.
Having removed the coating from the flesh areas of the child, the appearance of the monument is greatly improved, this will be further improved when the removal of the coating from the stonework has been completed. However, its removal from the robes of the child will provide a greatly altered appearance. At present, the robes are uneven in colour and dull, after removal of the coating the aluminium will be revealed.
This information was put forward for discussion at a Fabric Advisory Committee meeting in December 2002. The Committee agreed that the coating on the robes should be removed.
Joanna Wharley from the V&A Metals Conservation Department confirmed that Gilbert often used
aluminium with little or no toning and that the anticipated appearance of the cleaned robe would
not be unusual for this artist.
© 2002 St. Paul's Cathedral, London, England. Reproduced with permission.