Of course, it’s not only paintings that are subject to such harm. We recently had an enquiry from a client whose striking curlew bird sculpture had been damaged during a house move.
The piece is by celebrated British artist Guy Taplin who specialises in creating bird sculptures. It had been badly damaged while in transit – it’s wings had been clipped and it was no longer able to be freestanding.
Our client asked if we would be able to collect it for a full assessment with our conservator, which we were happy to arrange with our collection team.
Once in the studio, we ascertained that the sculpture was made from drift wood and covered in gesso.
Large pieces from different areas of the sculpture were cracking and falling off, and the wing of the bird was unstable and wobbly also. The multiple areas of damage included a swathe of missing gesso from the bird’s neck, cracking round the eyes and beak, and impact damage to the join of the wing.
Our client had been able to retain a small amount of the cracked gesso, although some pieces would need to be re-created.
It would be a very fragile piece to work on as the gesso had been applied very thinly over the wood, however, with appropriate care and attention it would be entirely successful to restore the sculpture.
Firstly, we undertook a full clean of the sculpture. If it had been through a house move, and then unwrapped to inspect damage, it was very likely that it would have accumulated some surface dirt. It is also important to complete this before re-creating any missing areas to ensure that no contaminants become trapped.
We then carefully re-adhered the unstable wing section and ensured it was more securely attached back to the main body. The wing had taken quite a knock and loosened, but it had fortunately not snapped off.
Other areas of decoration had snapped off however, so we stabilised the areas that had cracked and lifting gesso to ensure that no more would be lost. Once these areas were consolidated, we could then re-create the missing fragments and carefully adhere them to the now stable existing gesso on the sculpture.
Once the new fragments had been created, we carefully coloured match against the original gesso to blend the pieces back. This assisted in providing a seamless restoration, so if you take a look at the before and after photographs below you can’t tell where the damage occurred – or indeed that there had ever been an incident.
Our client was delighted with the results:
“We have received our Guy Taplin Curlew sculpture back and it is awesome! Please pass on our thanks to your colleagues for the tremendous work they have done to restore this precious sculpture for us. We are so very happy with how it has been restored. All of our very best wishes to you and your colleagues.”
Once restored, we were happy to deliver the sculpture back to our client, for it to be enjoyed again.