conservation

Recent News

October 2013

Have a look at our portfolios. The workshop has been extremely busy engaged on an exciting projects and we added photos of a French, c.1730 gilt bronze chandelier, a 19th century gilt bronze and malachite table and of course more Boulle furniture, all recently conserved in our workshop in Kent.

Conservation of a pair of writing tables attributed to A.C. Boulle, c.1720. private collection. Please have a look at the photos below of the gilt bronzes before and after cleaning: no regilding

 

Conservation of a large gilt bronze chandelier, c.1730. private collection. Conservation, including dismantling, cleaning and rewiring

September 2013

The workshop has been extremely busy engaged on an exciting project that, unfortunately, cannot be pictured. We have recently completed an important copy of a very famous piece of furniture. The work was challenging and extremely long, lasting five years. Many thousands of hours of work were spent on this project alone, plus the cost of extravagant and very expensive materials. As you may expect, I would love to show it in this web site but client privacy has to come first. The project included making gilt bronzes, of the finest and highest quality possible, replicating in design, workmanship and composition bronze mounts of the period. We are very proud of the result and we hope that one day we can illustrate this painstaking work. This project has greatly advanced our knowledge of eighteenth and nineteenth century bronze mounts and improved our ability to produce the best gilded bronzes in the UK. We hope we can look forward to more gilt bronze projects in the future.

 

Boulle marquetry video for the V&A

 

In 2012 we were contracted to work with the V&A on their new materials and techniques gallery. We produced display samples to explain wood marquetry and a video showing how Boulle marquetry is made. The results are now on show in the new “Dr Susan Weber Gallery”, a gallery dedicated to the materials and techniques of furniture. It was exciting to have the V&A’s team of curators, film director, camera man and lighting technician (to name but a few) visit the workshop and to collaborate together to produce a clear and simple video. We tried to be as accurate as we possibly could in the choice of materials and techniques, however we chose to use horn instead of turtleshell. The donkey and the tools used were the result of many hours of research and discussion as there is no documentary evidence to show which tools Boulle actually used. While marquetry donkeys appear in early cabinetmaker’s treaties, many scholars believe that Boulle used a different tool. For the clarity of the video, we settled on the 19th century style marquetry donkey, which is a safe and documented tool. Still, regardless of the donkey used, the marquetry was hand-made and the challenges still remained unchanged! This short video took many days of filming and the preparation of numerous (often identical) samples. I can only imagine how many extra hours were necessary to edit the footage! Please watch this video on the V&A’s website. I do hope that you will understand and better appreciate the challenge and difficulty in producing or restoring Boulle marquetry. This video summarises years of experience and marquetry cutting. To view the video, cut and paste the URL address below if the Vimeo links does not work

http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/videos/h/how-was-it-made-boulle-marquetry/

Diamonds are forever…

We all know how valuable and beautiful diamonds and jewellery can be. But how do you display and protect some of these greatest treasures of natural and man-made beauty? In 2012, we were contracted by the Antwerp company “Boulle”, part of the Boulle Mining Group, to design and make limited edition boxes for their diamond collection. Below is the first one of a limited edition of 8. Boulle wanted to celebrate the work of the synonymous André-Charles Boulle and the new box had to be reminiscent of his style. After being presented with several different designs the client opted for a fairly traditional, exquisitely made Boulle box. The box is made of ebony, with a secret drawer and a large hinged lid. It is decorated with a brass and ebony marquetry and fitted with gilded bronze mouldings. Each box has a solid silver hand engraved plaque detailing the unique number of the box, then finished with gilding. The photos below are without the interior lining and content.


These boxes were not cheap to produce as we wanted the quality of manufacture and materials to be in keeping with the boxes’ exclusive contents. We hope this collaboration with Boulle will be long and interesting. We also hope that it will inspire other designers, makers or collectors to see the potential we can offer in producing the finest and most luxurious pieces of furniture and boxes. Many makers and designers around the world tendered for this project and we are extremely proud that our work was selected.

Francois Linke Bahut Marine
'BAHUT MARINE':

ORMOLU-MOUNTED MARQUETRY CABINET
BY FRANÇOIS LINKE, INDEX NUMBER 560, THE MOUNTS DESIGNED BY LÉON MESSAGÉ, PARIS, 1899-1904

This large and unique cabinet by Francois Linke was sold at Christie’s London for £780,450 in December 2010.
It could be argued that Francois Linke’s furniture marks the pinnacle of cabinet-making. His constructions reflect all that was learnt from generations of cabinetmakers and are unrivalled in their sophistication and excellence. However even the best craftsmanship is not proof against the demands of time and climate and, inevitably, the large blocks of wood used to create the amazing bombé shapes will shrink.  As a result of the shrinkage and drying out of the original glue, the condition of the cabinet was poor with many areas lifting and there were many areas of missing kingwood, in particular around the door. 
We were lucky to be in a position to purchase (at a very high cost!) some of the veneer left over from Linke’s own workshop.  The colour of the wood was perfect and we still have some of this veneer left for any future Linke projects.
For the first time in our long history of restoring 19th century furniture, it was decided to not clean the gilt bronzes.  Their condition was relatively good with no corrosion.  However, during previous restorations, the cabinets had been re-polished (re-varnished) without removing the gilt bronzes.  This resulted in many drips and runs of lacquer on the gilt bronzes.  We carefully cleaned these unsightly residues without losing the beautiful colouring and patina of the gilding.  We were delighted with the result and felt very happy that original patina was preserved.  This conservative approach is very unusual for 19th / 20th century furniture and we do hope that the present example will encourage 19th century collectors to follow this lead.  We tend to have a conservative approach to gilt bronzes and finishing on 18th century furniture and we are trying to persuade our clients towards moving towards a more conservative approach even on furniture used daily. 
Our study of the original finish on this Linke cabinet and other Linke pieces revealed that a very light coat of resin lacquer had been followed by an application of wax.  The grain of the wood was barely filled and the finish extremely thin.  Such original, wax based finishes are very tactile and give a very beautiful but satin effect.  Many samples were produced to try to replicate the lightness of the original finish However, the client rejected these in favour of a thicker, shinier varnish.  

New workshop and recent projects (January 2012)

In our busy workshop, it is hard to find time to keep the website updated with recent news.  This year was exceptionally busy with exciting conservation projects, gilt bronze projects and, above all, the big move to our new premises.

The workshop was purpose-built to Yannick Chastang’s needs and was finally ready to move into in July.  The new workshop is bigger, better organised and has the advantage of increased security.  Located in a small, gated business park, the workshop has a large secured storeroom, dedicated space for the conservation of gilt-bronze, a bigger bronze finishing workshop, an airy wood conservation studio and a large workshop equipped with some of the latest woodworking pieces of machinery.  The workshops are fully air conditioned with humidity control.  We also offer bench spaces for rent for cabinetmakers, conservators. bronze-finishers and silversmiths.  For more details see our Job opportunities page or contact us by email. 

 

 

This year has involved conservation of furniture for Dumfries House, Boughton and many more private collectors.  We were privileged to conserve the desk by Pierre Gole made in the 1670s for Versailles, unfortunately damaged on its return from the exhibition on Louis XIV at Versailles.  Have a look at our portfolios where we will be adding photos of our latest projects.  Watch also the space in the gilt bronze portfolio: with two specialist full time employees, the acquisition of more than 1,300 antique chasing punches, and the development of close collaborations with gilders to produce the best quality gilding, we are now in a position to answer most of your gilt-bronze needs.  We have restored and cleaned gilt bronzes for Chatsworth, antique galleries and private collectors.  We are also currently conserving gilded candelabras and candlesticks for the Art Lamp Company (www.theartlamp.com).

 

Cucci Cabinets returned to Alnwick (January 2011)

 

After a year and a half of painstaking conservation the pair of cabinets by Domenico Cucci were returned to Alnwick, the seat of the Duke of Northumberland.  These cabinets, standing over 2 metres tall each, of ebony and decorated with elaborate pietre dure panels, are amongst the richest ever made.  They were made at the Gobelins for Louis XIV and were delivered to Versailles in 1683. This is the first time they have been conserved since 1823.

See ATG article 01 February 2011 www.antiquestradegazette.com/news/

New Workshop set up for Gilded bronze: conservation, restoration and making of gilded bronzes (ormolu) (October 2009)

Yannick Chastang is pleased to announce the setting up of a new metal conservation / bronze chasing workshop.  This is in response to increased demand for careful conservation of gilded bronze as well as the making of quality new gilded bronze (also called ormolu).  Yannick Chastang can now provide a top quality service for gilded bronze, from making of the moulds and supervision of the casting to in-house chasing and very soon in house gilding (electroplating and firegilding).  The employment of French-trained specialised metal workers means that Paris quality work can be achieved at more competitive prices.  Our hourly rate for making bronze is about a fourth of the hourly rate of a Parisian bronze maker.  This step will ensure greater control over the quality of our work without the need to sub-contract work to Paris. 

Small projects include the making of new escutcheons and handles for a pair of Boulle desks that have recently been conserved for Chatsworth as well as keys and elements for other pieces of Linke furniture.   

Whether furniture mounts, candelabras, chandeliers or fire dogs, we believe we now have the means to make anything from modern originals to copies, be they from an existing model or based on a photo.  Please do not hesitate to contact us for advice on any project you may have. 

Chasing of a new escutcheon to replace one missing from a pair of Boulle marquetry desks owned by Chatsworth  

Photo showing only a small selection of the 1,300 punches (or ciselets in French) we use to chase the bronze mounts.  Many of these punches are antique tools which have been reconditioned for use in our workshop.  Antique tools possess the advantage of endowing the bronze with a much smoother and more authentic chasing.  As every style or every bronze mount requires special tools, if we don’t have the appropriate tool, new ones are made for on a  project by project basis.  

 Bronze conservation

 England is among one of many countries that has exposed its gilded bonze to severe pollution from the time of the Industrial Revolution to the 1970s.  Many gilded bronzes in the UK, and in London in particular, have been irreversibly damaged and pitted by numerous corrosion spots caused by pollution.  David Scott from the Getty, a leading expert in the field of corrosion of copper alloys and treatment explains the black spots on many gilded objects very well:

 “Atmospheric pollutants such as sulphur dioxide can cause local dezincification (bronze mounts are made of brass, an alloy of mainly copper and zinc) leaving traces of zinc sulphite on the surface of the object, and these traces are rapidly oxidised to zinc sulphate.  Zinc sulphate is highly deliquescent, therefore even slightly elevated relative humidity can cause localized spots of condensation.  The zinc sulphate solution thus formed will dissolve more sulphur dioxide, which will be oxidised to sulphur trioxide, facilitated by the copper ions.  In the presence of the increasingly strong concentration of sulphuric acid in the droplets, together with atmospheric oxygen, more copper-zinc alloy will dissolve………….”

 Extract from Copper and Bronze in Art, corrosion, colorants, conservation by David A. Scott, the Getty Conservation institute, Los.Angeles, USA.

 Thanks to the Clean Air Act, pollution in London is now significantly lower with fewer atmospheric pollutants that could cause new corrosion spots.  Unfortunately, where there are existing spots of corrosion these will continue to spread thanks to England’s damp climate. The photos below illustrate deep corrosion spots spreading inside the brass. 

  

High magnification photo showing a cross-section of two corrosion spots on brass spreading beneath the surface and causing the distinctive “pitting” of the surface.  The brass metal is white on this photo.

 

If left untreated, corrosion will continue to spread beneath the surface of the brass causing irremediable damage to the object.  Careful cleaning techniques to address corrosion-related problems have been developed during recent years in our workshop.  This is opposed to the more traditional cleaning techniques which tend to use very strong cleaning products which can in turn damage the object.  Our objective is to use stable, neutral pH products and non-abrasive techniques, for example high pressure steam so that corrosion spots can be safely removed from most bronzes.  This technique avoids causing damage to the contrast of matt and burnished areas.  Gel techniques also enable the safe and careful cleaning of localised areas of bronze which may require further attention.  All of our techniques aim to preserve the patina on the back of the furniture mounts.  Great care is taken that newly conserved pieces of gilded bronze should acquire an agreeable aspect.  Newly cleaned gilded bronze can look too new or shiny in many collections and pieces are often treated using a technique known as “mise en couleur de l’or”, an 18th century technique of applying coloured wax which can impart a golden tone improving dramatically the visual impact of the finished object.

 

 

Cleaning of gilded bronze using steam

 

 Typical example of gilded mounts before and after conservation.  The preferential corrosion seen before (top) on this original Boulle mount was carefully removed using techniques described above.  In many cases, gilded bronzes do not need to be re-gilt.

 

 

Again, please do not hesitate to contact us with regard to your gilded bronze, whether  they are furniture mounts, clocks or sculpture.  The problem of corrosion is very serious and should not be left untreated.

 

Recent projects (November 2008)

Over the last two years, Yannick Chastang Limited has conserved some important pieces:  a Boulle writing table from the Wildenstein Collection (the most expensive piece sold by Christie's in the 2005 London sale of the Wildenstein Collection), a Boulle cabinet on stand from Boughton House, collection of the duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry, and an important coffer on stand from the Lewis Walpole Library in Farmington (USA) .  We were also delighted to make new marquetry panels designed by Paul Fryer for his 2008 London show.  Enjoy the photos below.  

 

Yannick Chastang, November 2008. 

 

The Boughton Cabinet after conservation.  Copyright, The Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry

The Wildenstein desk before conservation

 

 

Coffer on stand attributed to Boulle, The Lewis Walpole Library, USA

 

 

 

Collector's cabinet  with Egret marquetry 

 
This recently-sold cabinet is veneered with an egret marquetry of holly, pink ivory and other woods set into a background of
black ebony.  The water in which the egret stands is simulated by an interestingly marked piece of brown-speckled ebony.
The inside is veneered in a dramatically contrasting pink ivory and fitted with fourteen drawers. 
More photos can be seen in the design section of this web site.