Bronze Sculpture Conservation in Montpelier

IMG_7779 IMG_7765

Before                                                        After

First Governor of Vermont

Thomas Chittenden’ is a life-size, dark brown patina, bronze statue 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. ‘Thomas Chittenden’ was dedicated on 6/18/99.

Chittenden (1/6/1730 – 8/25/97) 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 – 2 small patches of blue-green – indicating a pinhole size pit or hairline crack in the patina.

There is a light green tinge over the entire surface of the sculpture. It is mild copper oxidation, typical of outdoor sculpture that has not received a periodic protective coating.

Treatment

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

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

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

IMG_7779

Next, I inspected the entire surface for pits and cracks. If any are greater than a pinhole or hairline crack, I would clean and fill with epoxy, but I saw none. Anything I couldn’t see will be sealed by the coating.

Finally, I applied 2 coats of Everbrite satin.

IMG_7779It took just one person, one day. All products available online.

IMG_7779Thomas, Bob, and my granddaughter Greta

 

Wax Versus Polymer

I recommend polymer rather than wax for outdoor sculpture because it seals small cracks and pits, lasts much longer than wax, 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.

IMG_7779

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 month or so. This is an expensive procedure, and why do it if polymer is known to last 5 to 10 years.

IMG_7779 IMG_7765

I use Everbrite satin which restores a ‘new’ look which is virtually identical to an original dark brown semi-gloss bronze patina. Everbrite and other polymers are so reliable I provide clients with a 5-year guarantee.

Leave a Reply