Since December, we’ve been providing you newsletter updates of the project to conserve the spectacular ceiling and wall paintings in the Mansion’s Reception Suite. While many other activities continue to go on– particularly planning for the upcoming visitation season that commences May 1 (less than a month away!)– the conservation work continues to amaze and impress the staff and all who see it.
In March, conservators sprayed a removable barrier varnish on the main Reception Suite ceiling, protecting the original paint they had fully cleaned and stabilized. With that barrier in place, they have begun the inpainting process with a ceiling-down approach, essentially touching up specific damaged areas to restore the room to its original splendor.
They are first focusing on the gilded fruit, vine, and medallion elements in the decorative molded plaster on the ceiling. To achieve a full and even result, they apply ochre as a base color beneath 24 carat shell gold, which is made by mixing genuine gold powder and palladium or silver powder with gum arabic into tablet form. Using acrylic paint, they will also inpaint over damaged areas on the ceiling in order to restore the decoration’s original appearance.
Additionally, conservators are using scalpels to mechanically remove those areas of non-original paint applied as “touch ups” over the decades. All the while, they continue to dry sponge and erase the remaining portions of the walls. Once that cleaning is complete, a barrier varnish will be applied and further inpainting in these areas can be done as needed .
This is one of the largest projects of its type currently underway in the United States, and it will continue through the summer and fall months. With this work, we are getting closer and closer to presenting the principle Reception Room the way artist Giuseppe Guidicini originally intended it to be experienced: as a spectacularly ornate introduction to a home built to impress. Check back soon for more updates!
The conservation of the Reception Suite is supported in part through a generous matching grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services. We are within $10,000 of raising our $130,000 match for this phase of the project. If you would like to help support our work, please call the Director of Development, Sam Heck at 207.772.4841 ext. 102 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org.