An investigation into the cause of corrosion on indoor bronze sculpture

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Publication Type:

Journal Article


Couture-Rigert, Doris E.; Sirois, P. Jane; Moffatt, Elizabeth A.;


Studies in Conservation, Volume 57, Number 3, p.142-163 (2012)


Corrosion noted on a number of nineteenth and twentieth century indoor bronze sculptures in the collection of the National Gallery of Canada was the cause for a major condition survey of its Canadian, American, and European bronzes. The results led to a comprehensive study, which included material analysis. This article outlines the steps undertaken to determine the extent and type of corrosion, its possible cause(s), and potential remediation. The survey included 136 bronzes, of which 40 were selected for an in-depth study. Indoor air quality tests of the current building, housing the collection since 1988, were carried out. The dossiers and database records of the selected sculptures were reviewed to investigate their condition, treatment, and storage history. The metal, patina, and corrosion products were subjected to analysis. More areas of corrosion were generally associated with predominantly green patinas and chloride-containing compounds identified in either patina or corrosion samples. The most frequently identified compounds in the patina samples were atacamite, a copper(II) chloride hydroxide, and cuprite, a copper(I) oxide. The most frequently identified compounds in the corrosion samples were atacamite and rouaite, a copper(II) hydroxide nitrate. The analysis determined that the current environment is not contributing to the surface alterations of the sculptures; however, past storage conditions, chemical residues from artificial patination, and likely casting residues are the main causes of the current condition.