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Behind the Scenes in Conservation: Seeing Spots

by Conservation


CAMConservation , 1740sfurniture , textile conservation , textiles , Grendey

Conservation often involves some detective work, some experimentation, and some elbow grease. Our textile conservator got to wear all these “hats” this week to address some spots on this settee in Gallery 209, the British portraiture gallery. Were the spots new or old? What were they made of? Could they be safely removed? Here, our conservator uses solvents applied with cotton buds—just a tiny dab at a time!—to attempt to dissolve the spots and wick them away safely. Various solvents are used to match the mystery material with a solvent that will safely remove it, then repeating them in combinations because some stains can be reduced or removed by stages requiring multiple solvents and multiple passes. The results of the investigation were inconclusive, unfortunately, though the spots are less visible (and less “crusty”!) than they were before treatment.

Settee, circa 1740s, England, Giles Grendey (English, 1693-1780), cabinetmaker, black walnut, mahogany, modern upholstery, Museum Purchase: Mr. and Mrs. John J. Emery Memorial gifts, John J. Emery Fund , Bequest of Frederick and Sylvia Yeiser, Bequest of Paul E. Geier, The Edwin and Virginia Irwin Memorial and miscellaneous art purchase funds, 1983.143