Analysis and conservation of modern modeling materials found in Auguste Rodin's sculptures

Publication Type:

Journal Article

Authors:

Juliette Langlois; Guylaine Mary; Hélène Bluzat; Agnès Cascio; Nathalie Balcar; Yannick Vandenberghe; Marine Cotte;

Source:

Studies in Conservation, Volume 62, Number 5, p.247-265 (2017)

Abstract:

Prior to the exhibition Portrait-making, Rodin and his models (2009), the Rodin museum wanted to restore two busts of Hanako and Clemenceau. Interestingly, these two sculptures contain pieces of modern modeling materials (MMMs) invented at the end of the nineteenth century as an alternative to clay or waxes. The poor state of conservation of the two portraits made any handling and exhibition impossible. Accordingly, the purpose of this article is twofold: to contribute to technical art history and conservation. Elemental and chemical analyses were done on samples from 12 sculptures (SEM–EDX, FTIR, GC–MS, GC–FID, XRD, synchrotron-based µXRF, µXANES, and µFTIR) aimed at identifying the composition of MMMs used by Rodin on plaster sculptures and establishing hypotheses about the origins of their degradation. This thorough study of their composition and degradation was necessary to implement an appropriate restoration plan. The development of conservation protocols adapted to such materials is rarely documented. Different tests were performed on mock-ups (pH, solubility, adhesion, consolidation, and cleaning). In particular, a protocol based on laser cleaning was developed and successfully applied to remove superficial dust and crusts so that the sculptures regained their original aspect.