Saturday, January 30, 2010

Mansfield Traquair Church

Last summer Ben & I took a trip to Scotland, where I had lived for 6 years after graduating from uni in London and before moving to the USA (I promise to share the wonderful projects I worked on with you in this blog). I was really excited and proud to show him Mansfield Church in Edinburgh, and the amazing murals I had the pleasure to work on for 2 years with Historic Scotland.

left: Chancel Arch with the Worship of Heaven (Ezekiel & Revelation); the principle structures of the Four Apostolic Church & the Four living creatures. Right: The West wall illustrated the 2nd Coming of Christ, with a Pentecostal Frieze below

The church was built for the congregation of Catholic Apostolic Church, who believed that the world would end at the end of the new millennium and wanted to be prepared for the imminent Second Coming of Christ. The building was designed by Robert Rowand Anderson in a neo-Norman style and completed in 1885, and the interior was decorated with murals painted by Arts & Crafts artist Phoebe Anna Traquair in 1895-1901 who employed a 'spirit fresco' technique on plaster ground to illustrate scenes from the New and Old Testament.

Left:Investigation work/conservation trials- South Aisle. Right: Injecting consolidant to fix flaking paint-North Aisle

After the 2nd coming of Christ did not appear in 1900, the church slowly dwindled and fell into disrepair, the furniture was removed and building suffered terribly from water ingress as did the the mural paintings inside. The Mansfield Traquair Trust was formed in 1993, bought the building in 1998, and raised funds to have the building restored in 2000-2002. In 2003 the restoration of the murals commenced. The aim was to stabilize and secure any loose paint and plaster, remove surface dirt and discolored varnish and recreate missing areas of the murals.

Left: Cleaning to remove discolored varnish from Chancel Arch. Right: Removing accumulated surface dirt from Chancel Ceilling

I joined structural painting conservators, Fiona Allardyce & Ailsa Murray from Historic Scotland to carry out an investigation and carry out trials for the materials and methods we were going to use on the murals. 6 months later we were another conservation intern, Suzanne Ross and we started on project proper, and later on when we were working on large areas we had students and private conservators bulk up our team.

Left: Consolidating salt damaged flaking paint using heat-seal consolidant. Right: Consolidating failed plaster with injectible mortars

-The range of practical work that I covered:

-Application of facing tissue to vulnerable areas of paint

-Detachment and storage of loose areas of painted plaster and

consolidation of stable areas (spandrels)

-Plaster consolidation using injectible lime mortars

-Consolidation of paint-on wood, stone and plaster, using gelatine,

Primal and Lascaux heat-seal consolidant

-Consolidation of friable pastiglio

-Cleaning of painted and gilded surfaces-surface dirt and varnish

and removal of inappropriate restorations

-In-filling of losses to the substrate (coarse and fine plaster)

-Reconstructing pastiglio then gilding and toning

-In-painting/ retouching with watercolours and pure pigments in varnish

-Application of new varnish

-Re-pointing of stonework

Left: showing area which has been cleaned of surface dirt. Middle: After cleaning in North Aisle. Right: After reconstructing halo, it was gilded and toned to match the other Four Living Creatures.

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