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Thursday, June 1 • 3:00pm - 3:30pm
(Objects) New Technologies Applied to Restore a Nineteenth-century Wax Medardo Rosso Sculpture

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My paper addresses this year's central theme of innovation in conservation. Using a number of cutting-edge technologies, I restored a damaged nineteenth-century wax sculpture by Italian modernist Medardo Rosso (1858-1928)—titled Bambino Ebreo, and dubbed the "McArthur” cast for this project—and to structurally reinforce it to prevent future damage. In a 2014 exhibition at Peter Freeman, Inc., New York on Rosso's work, the "McArthur” cast was shown alongside eleven other undamaged casts of the same work (in wax, bronze, and plaster). Although the "McArthur” was in a very bad condition, it was still interesting to show it publicly because viewers were able to see part of the plaster underneath the wax. The gathering of so many examples of one of Rosso's sculptures provided an unprecedented opportunity for scientists to take detailed 3-dimensional scans of each cast in order to learn more about how each serial sculpture varies from its peers and in my initial consideration of the restoration, I realized we could use these scans to determine the likely original character of the "McArthur” cast. I had considered the question of whether or not to intervene in the sculpture at all, given the fragility of the wax and the big portions of loss, and it became clear that using this 3-D technology was the best way to achieve my goal of reconstructing the sculpture's missing parts as faithfully as possible to the original, while intervening as little as possible. The "McArthur” cast is made of cast wax over an applied plaster core. The most disturbing damage was an earlier restoration of the nose. Also, the angle of the head was wrong. The metal axis on which the head was secured to the base was tilted towards the front and for this reason, the sculpture likely fell face first, crushing the nose and upper lip. The back of the head had several missing areas of wax and possibly plaster. The bottom front left had a loss. The left part of the neck was deformed and detached from the plaster core, as was the left part almost at the backside of the head. After deciding which other cast was the most similar to the "McArthur,” we made a 3-D head of that cast in resin and then made molds of the parts that corresponded to the damaged areas of our sculpture, which were then used to recreate the areas of wax that had been lost or damaged. Scientists had also analyzed samples of wax taken from other Rosso sculptures to determine the various wax compositions used by the artist. Studying their analysis and doing some experimentation in mixing materials, I finally found the best composite with which to restore the "McArthur” cast, and by heating that material to varying temperatures, I achieved a variation in color that perfectly matched the variations in tone used by Rosso himself.

avatar for Lluïsa Sàrries-Zgonc

Lluïsa Sàrries-Zgonc

Conservator for Paintings and Sculpture, Peter Freeman Inc.
I was born in Barcelona in 1962. In 1985 I graduated in Art History at the University of Barcelona and the next year I started the study of conservation, graduating in 1989 with a degree in painting conservation and restoration from the 'Escola d'Arts i Oficis' in Barcelona. From... Read More →

Thursday June 1, 2017 3:00pm - 3:30pm CDT
Crystal Ballroom B Lobby Level, West Tower