Not all of the objects and artworks we care for at Fine Art Restoration Company are traditional antiques. Often our private and insurance clients contact us about their beloved or high-value items which can range from small Christmas ornaments and LP record covers to large mixed-media sculptures and recreational centrepieces such as chess sets.
We welcome any unique item to be assessed by our team, who not only have a wide range of experience in specialist areas but are able to adapt their skills to suit a specific piece.
We would like to share with you a few of our more unusual restoration projects so that you can see how diverse the world of conservation can be.
A signed football covered in glue
Last year, we were contacted by a client who had a signed leather football, the treasured item had been covered in brown tape, which had left glue residue all over the names. Without intervention, the signatures may have been lost entirely, due to the disruption from this acidic element and due to the sticky surface issue.
The football was a unique piece of sports memorabilia. It had been signed by Celtic FC around 1967 when they won the European Cup, as well as various other accolades. For our client, this was a beloved piece of history.
Our team of conservators all took a look at the football in person. As they all have different specialities they were able to assess whether the removal of the adhesive residue would be achievable, whilst still leaving the signatures intact. They analysed the type of glue and the type of inks that had been used.
Once the materials had been established and tested, our team were able to carefully remove the sticky residue with small swabs, as well as giving the football a complete clean of any historic contamination. The results left the football with its original clean surface, with the signatures intact and unaffected by the previous sticky tape damage.
Historic chess sets
Chess can be dated back almost 1500 years, which has given way to sets differing greatly in terms of their materials and design. The famous Lewis Chessmen from the 12th century were made from walrus ivory and whale teeth, whilst others from the same era have been made from ceramics. Our conservation team is able to restore ivory with a synthetic substitute to keep the pieces stable and well preserved, as is the case with the conservation of ceramic items which can be seamlessly repaired.
The wooden sets we know today are often of the ‘Staunton’ variety, this was a product of the great resurgence in the popularity of the game by the end of the 18th century through to the Victorian age. Staunton sets were created in 1849 by Jaques of London who has been making toys and games since 1795, the owners are currently the 8th generation of games makers.
We were contacted by a client about their Jacques chess set, it had been found in his father’s attic after many years. The wooden materials were boxwood and ebony, but most significantly the style of the knight pieces were identified as the ‘Anderson Jop Jaw’ dating it to the 1860s.
The box which housed the set was in a worsening state of damage, with the important Jacques label of the set being brittle and falling away. Upon assessment from our specialist conservator, the recommendations were to stabilise the edges of the box, as well as to colour match the polish of any new elements to make this seamless. The label could then be re-adhered with conservation solutions and sealed to preserve it in the future.
Some areas of the pieces were missing or had chipped off over time. Our conservator hand-carved new sections of the damaged pieces, this included two pawns and two bishops. The colour and detailing were matched exactly and replaced onto the originals with conservation approved methods.
The result achieved the goal our client had for this restoration, to be able to continue playing with the set with the peace of mind that it was stable and well preserved for himself and for future generations.
Papier-mâché tiger who had lost his nose
Sometimes the stories behind an artwork’s accidental damage are understandably familiar, such was the case with a large papier-mâché tiger that our conservation team saw. The tiger had lost his nose after losing a battle with our client’s rather excitable puppy, who had chewed away at the unusual material.
This sentimental piece meant a lot to our client. We were pleased to be able to restore it back into its original condition, through careful colour-matching of the original paint, and the recreation of missing elements which were re-adhered with conservation methods.
Stainless steel trunk used as a coffee table
One of our clients contacted us with a very unusual piece of furniture. A stainless steel trunk that was used as a coffee table had become tarnished over time. The trunk was rusting due to age and years of use, which not only meant it was at risk of deterioration but also likely to stain the owner’s light carpet.
The trunk itself had an interesting history, the metallic label read ‘Anthony Hordern & Sons LTD’ which connected it to a famous 19th-century department store in Sydney, Australia. Anthony Horden & Sons opened in 1823 and remained a central shopping location for 150 years, at one point it was celebrated as the biggest department store in the world. The significance of the trunk’s link to Australia serves as a reminder of how well-travelled it is, making it more than just a decorative object.
The areas of rusting were treated by our team, as it was stainless steel this was a time-intensive process. Any pre-existing inconsistencies in the surface of the trunk, such as light bumps and scratches, were left to allow it to maintain its adventurous history. A protective layer was also left on the bottom of the piece to help protect the flooring.
Chinese jade crane with accidental damage
Last year, our team was contacted about a beautiful jade sculpture. A detailed crane, about 18 inches in height with a natural gradient effect, that went from dark green through to light. The sculpture had an inherent weak point due to the thin legs of the bird, these had snapped away from the base following accidental damage.
Hardstone carving is an intriguing genre within sculpture, with semi-precious materials such as jade, agate, onyx, or rock crystal being the most popular sources. Ornaments made of such materials are able to be restored. Prior to conservation work, it is highly recommended that all of the pieces are gathered following the accident.
Jade is especially found in Chinese art and design. This ornamental mineral is known for its durability, as well as magical properties and the beauty in its translucent surface. For many cultures, jade is connected with protection, the soul, and immortality. The crane itself is associated with love and loyalty, as this bird mates for life with just one partner. The combination of these elements creates more than just a decorative reasoning behind the sculpture.
Our client had taken the correct steps in gathering all of the pieces, no matter how small, and by not attempting to use glue or sticky tape at home. By having these pieces, our specialist conservator could take the approach of delicately and seamlessly restoring the damage with as much of the original material as possible. Any missing pieces can be recreated where needed, resulting in a smooth finish that returns stability and aesthetic appeal to the piece.