Eighteenth Century Gentleman Figure
The fully dressed figure stands approximately 660 mm high and is fixed to a carved, circular wood base.
The clothing, shoes and the mannequin have been executed to a very high standard. The figure has glass eyes and real hair; the coloured, outer wax layer of the head is finely sculpted into that of an elderly gentleman. With the exception of the hat, arms and the overcoat, all elements are fixed to the mannequin.
The figure’s distinct left lean and clenched left hand, suggest the figure originally held a walking stick.
Client brief/Role of object
The overall aim of conservation treatment was to make the figure stable for display in a glazed case in the client’s home.
Condition before treatment
Overall, the structural condition of the costume items ranged from good to very fragile; dyes had faded. Exposed surfaces were covered in a thick layer of soils. The black wool felt hat was torn and elements were missing; the stamped metal buttons adorning the black wool overcoat were tarnished. The exposed areas of the cream silk jacket were fragile and some of the silk has worn away along the fold lines, exposing the cotton lining. A metal button was missing from the red wool waistcoat. The cotton/linen shirt and lace cuffs were weak and fragmentary; pile had worn away from the green silk velvet breeches and the ground weave was weak. The cream silk stockings were weak and full of holes. Most of one shoe was missing; the other had lost some of the black finish and the leather was partially detached.
Elements of the wax hands were missing. Some of the wax was missing from the head, exposing the white plaster foundation. The surface of the surviving wax layer was covered in a white bloom. The hair was fragile and matted.
With the exception of the hat and the overcoat, which were removable and in stable condition, no attempt was made to remove the fragile clothing for treatment.
All accessible surfaces of the dressed figure were surface cleaned to remove loose particulate soils.
Corrosion products were removed from various metal elements, and the cleaned surfaces were protected with a fine coating of microcrystalline wax to help prevent further corrosion.
The shirt ruff was humidified to relax creasing and minimise distortions.
The stockings were stabilised by stitching them to small patch inserts of a semi-transparent colour-matched, silk crepeline fabric.
Fragments of the hat brim were re-attached with an adhesive and the brim was eased into its original position.
The jacket was too fragile to be stabilised with a stitching technique. Partially detached threads and fragmented edges were consolidated with an adhesive.
The shoe components were stabilised with an adhesive support comprising patches of dyed silk crepeline.
The exposed plaster was stabilised by sealing with a consolidant, and protected with an overlay of crepeline. The missing wax was not replaced with new. The area of loss was concealed with a colour-matched patch of Japanese tissue.
All treatments were carried out according to test results using conservation-grade materials.
Condition after treatment
The dressed figure responded well to treatment. All elements are cleaner and brighter, and less distorted as a result. Component parts are more stable. The colour patch is effective in drawing the eye away from the area of loss in the face.
Reproduced courtesy of the owner (privately owned); Kate Gill Textile and Upholstery Conservation Services © 2019.