Bronze Sculpture Conservation in Montpelier

First Governor of Vermont

Restored sculpture by Arts Management Services LLC

‘Thomas Chittenden’ is a life-size bronze statue with a dark brown patina. It’s located outside the west wing of the Vermont State House in Montpelier, Vermont.

IMG_7779Vermont State House – circle marks the spot of the sculpture

It was created by renowned sculptor Frank Chalfant Gaylord II (1925 – 2018) of Barre, Vermont. Gaylord is best known for the Korean War Memorial in Washington, DC.

Korean War Memorial in Washington, DC

Korean War Memorial in Washington, DC

The bronze was cast by the lost wax method by Glenn Campbell of Campbell Plaster and Iron Foundry in West Rutland, Vermont. This sculpture of Thomas Chittenden was dedicated on 6/18/99.

Chittenden (1/6/1730 – 8/25/1797) was a major figure in the early history of Vermont as the first leader of the territory for nearly two decades.

This sculpture sits upon a granite pedestal. The sculpture and pedestal are in excellent condition with only minor oxidation on the bronze indicated by two small patches of blue-green. A pinhole size pit or hairline crack probably caused this oxidation.

A cloudy green tinge covers the entire surface of the sculpture. This is mild copper oxidation, typical of outdoor sculpture that has not received a periodic protective coating.

Treatment

Why coat bronze? After all, it’s a very durable metal.

The importance of coating bronze or any metal sculpture is to protect against conditions that harm the surface, such as bird droppings, salt air, and acid rain.

First, I cleaned the surface by removing dirt and oxidation with a mild soap and distilled water. Orvus is considered the mildest detergent, commonly used to clean horses. It is pH neutral, 100% biodegradable, and recommended by art conservators.

 

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Next, I inspected the entire surface for pits and cracks. If any are greater than a pinhole or hairline crack, I clean and fill them with epoxy, but I saw none. Any microscopic cracks will be sealed by the coating.

Finally, I applied two coats of Everbrite satin. I started at the top of the sculpture and moved down. The granite base and surrounding flower garden were protected with a sheet of plastic. The coating dries quickly. By the time I had finished the first coat I could begin the second coat starting once again at the top.

 

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It took just myself one day. All products are available online.

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Thomas, Bob, and Bob’s granddaughter and best little buddy Greta

Wax Versus Polymer

I recommend polymer rather than wax for outdoor sculpture. It seals small cracks and pits, lasts much longer than wax, does not yellow, is less costly to apply, and in my opinion is the best protection against outdoor weather. Plus, no maintenance is required other than wiping with a cotton cloth and tap water as needed.

Polymer coatings are now used for outdoor conservation of bronze sculpture more often than wax, reflecting a growing satisfaction with a product that is relatively new (30 years) in the conservation industry.

Thomas Chittenden sculpture

After 2 coats of Everbrite

The problem with outdoor wax treatment is that there is no way to determine just how long it lasts in any given environment unless you test the treatment, AND keep testing it every couple of months. This is an expensive procedure, and why do it if polymer is known to last 5 to 10 years.

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I use a particular polymer coating known as Everbrite satin which restores a ‘new’ look virtually identical to an original bronze patina. Everbrite and other polymers are so reliable I provide clients with a 5-year guarantee.

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