Tapestry Washing

FHC recently expanded its support of Hearst Castle to include art conservation. Your help has already enabled us to conserve many important pieces, which are described below.

Mille Fleurs Tapestry Mille Fleurs Tapestry
A stag hunt progresses across the fabric of this Franco-Flemish Gothic tapestry. It was woven around 1500, and is a “mille fleurs,” or “thousand flowers” type of tapestry, characterized by the numerous blossoms that decorate its ground. To help ensure that this piece survives another five hundred years, conservation treatment included: gentle cleaning; re-weaving and repairing time-damaged sections; reinforcing the stitching at separated areas, and re-lining the back of the tapestry with conservation-quality fabric.

Altar Frontal Altar Frontal
As its name implies, this fabric panel was designed to cover the front of an altar. Made of ivory-colored silk damask, with metallic embroidery and applied decoration, it was created in the 15th century to celebrate the Jubilee year of Pope Clement X, which took place in 1675. The workmanship is Italian. Conservation treatment will begin with the removal of previous repairs. The altar frontal will be cleaned and stabilized with hand-sewing techniques that secure threads in both the ground fabric and the embroidered elements. Finally, the entire panel will be mounted on a covered framework that evenly distributes the weight of the fabric to prevent further damage.

Polychrome Angels Polychrome Angels
Located in Casa del Monte guest house, this pair of now-wingless angels were carved in Italy in the 16th or 17th century. The were painted, or polychromed, and gilded, as were many wood carvings of the Renaissance. Conservation treatment for art pieces like these, composed of different materials, can be complex. The conservator removed old re-touchings and repairs. The flaking paint layer was cleaned and consolidated, and losses of paint and gilding were filled in with conservation-appropriate materials. The wood itself was consolidated to repair losses due to old damage done by wood worm.

Painting Painting
The provenance of this painting is uncertain. It depicts the Madonna and Child with a young St. John the Baptist, and was purchased at auction in 1923 by William Randolph Hearst as a work of the “Italian School.” Stylistic clues indicate it might even be Spanish. Extensive cleaning, as part of the painting’s conservation treatment revealed the original colors intended by the artist. Other aspects of the conservation treatment included paint stabilization and necessary re-touching. The frame was also cleaned, and losses of gesso and gilding were replaced.

Armorial Banners Armorial Banners
Three Spanish banners of the 18th century are displayed in Casa del Mar guest house. Background fabric of cream-colored silk satin features elaborate silk- and metallic-thread embroidery, and applied decoration, such as sequins and faceted glass gems. The banner designs depict Spain’s coat of arms. Cleaning and removal of the old fabric lining (or backing) will be the first steps in conservation treatment. Broken threads and applied decoration will be secured, and the silk ground fabric and fringe stabilized. Finally, each banner will be mounted on a covered framework to provide even weight distribution and avoid future stress to the fabric.

William Randolph Hearst Portrait William Randolph Hearst Portrait
The portrait of William Randolph Hearst, painted by childhood friend Orrin Peck, hangs in the Gothic Study, as it did during Mr. Hearst’s day. Painted in 1894, this portrait shows W.R. Hearst at age 31. Conservation treatment involved cleaning, removing old re-touchings, and adding new areas of re-touching where necessary, using conservation pigments. The canvas was also given a new lining with conservation fabric to provide additional support in the future.

Discobolus Discobolus
Discobolus, or the Discus Thrower, is of late 19th or early 20th-century manufacture. It is an Italian copy in bronze of the original marble by Greek sculptor Myron (5th century B.C.). Detailed examination during conservation treatment showed that the sculpture was still filled with plaster-like material used in the original casting process. This material absorbs moisture, then causes salts to leach through the pores of the bronze to the surface of the sculpture, resulting in corrosion and loss of metal; this material was removed. The sculpture was cleaned, and corrosion and mineral deposits were removed from the surface, which was then treated to arrest corrosion and to replace lost areas of metal. The patina of the surface was re-touched where necessary, and the entire sculpture was waxed to help protect and preserve the bronze. Funding for this project was graciously provided by the Sence Foundation.

Winged Victory Winged Victory
Also known as “Nike of Brescia,” Winged Victory is an early 20th-century Italian bronze copy by Umberto Marcellini of the original in the Roman Museum in Brescia, Italy. Winged Victory, unfortunately, shared the same manufacturing defect that plagued Discobolus – casting material left inside the sculpture was causing corrosion. Conservation treatment was essentially the same for both bronzes. Funding for this project was graciously provided by the Sence Foundation.

Portrait of Carlotta Portrait of Carlotta
This portrait of Carlotta, Empress of Mexico, was painted in 1864 by Franz Winterhalter, who was a painter to the major courts of Europe from 1830 to 1870. Conservation treatment consisted of cleaning, removing discolored in-painting, and covering paint losses with conservation colors. The backing material was replaced, and the frame was cleaned and re-gilded. Funding for this project was graciously provided by the Sence Foundation.

Portrait of Maximilian Portrait of Maximilian
Also painted in 1864, Franz Winterhalter’s portrait of Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico, is a companion painting to his portrait of Carlotta. Historically displayed as a pair, both paintings experienced the same kind of environmental conditions through time, and required the same type of conservation treatment. Funding for this project was graciously provided by the Sence Foundation.

Tapestry Sofa Tapestry Sofa
This low sofa, covered with antique, probably Flemish, tapestry is located in William Randolph Hearst’s Gothic Study. There is no record of purchase for this sofa, but analysis of the materials used to construct it indicates that it was probably manufactured in America, using European tapestry. Conservation treatment for this piece included: making patterns for all surface areas and contours; removing fabric and trim, and cleaning and repairing it; reweaving damaged areas of tapestry; re-sewing split seams; and finally, reupholstering the entire sofa.

Galatea on a Dolphin by Leopoldo Ansiglioni Galatea on a Dolphin by Leopoldo Ansiglioni
The statue is Italian marble and bronze, created in 1883. Phoebe Apperson Hearst was a benefactor of Ansiglioni, who created three versions of this statue. Her son William Randolph Hearst coveted the piece as a young man and did eventually own this one. He originally considered placing it in front of the Casa del Mar guest house but ultimately decided to showcase it more prominently in the pond on the Central Plaza, facing Casa Grande's main entrance. Conservation efforts involved cleaning the marble surface, reducing ferrous stains and stabilizing cracked and detached pieces. The statue showed signs of “sugaring” and was treated with a compound to arrest this destructive process and restore the smooth marble surface. Conservation was funded by Friends of Hearst Castle members Dick & Diana Clark and Margaret and Charles Durnin.

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Elegant Evening
November 13, 2016
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