“Shorty, you’re my Darling Angel…”

Jan Cutajar

Forget Shaggy and that catchy tune, drum-roll on cue, allow us to introduce you to two fascinating objects, straight from heaven above.

Fig. 1: Ladies and gentlemen, we present to you Gabriel and Gabrielle (blandly named Angel A (right) an B (left) respectively).

Ladies and gentlemen, we present to you Gabriel and Gabrielle (blandly named Angel A (right) and B (left) respectively). Courtesy of Norfolk Museums Service, T1878333.

Well, more precisely, this stunning pair of wooden gilded statues is originally from Blo Norton Hall Chapel in the Breckland district of Norfolk. They have recently been entrusted to the UCL Institute of Archaeology Conservation Department, by Norfolk Museums Service,  as they were in need of some tender care. In this first chapter of our series on this ongoing conservation project (run by fellow MSc. Conservation colleague Claire D’Izarny-Gargas at UCL Qatar and us students in London), we shall first describe the initial condition of the angels we have come to love here at the conservation lab. So, without further ado, let’s jump into the thick of it!

Both angels had their outer gilded layer present in a state of dramatic flaking, such that the gold leaf was detaching all over the surface and uncovering the remains of earlier gilded layers. A detailed physical examination revealed that several campaigns of gilding had taken place. Further examination was not easy as the extent of surface delamination meant that handling the object was not possible without risking further surface losses. The following photos reveal the extent of this damage:

The faces of both Angel A (left) and Angel B (right) had particularly suffered from surface delamination. Courtesy of Norfolk Museums Service, T1878333.

Fig. 3: Angel B was in much worse off a state than A - note the extent of flaking as well as the acuteness of the flaking (not to mention all the dust!).

Angel B was in much worse off a state than A – note the extent of flaking as well as the acuteness of the flaking (not to mention all the dust!). Courtesy of Norfolk Museums Service, T1878333.

Fig. 4: Whilst Angel B suffered on the front, Angel B had more severe problems on its back, where delamination had taken place to reveal the various gilding campaigns, painted layers and ground layers. Although rather despairing, the deterioration allowed insights into the preparation of the object during its creation.

Whilst Angel B suffered on the front, Angel A had more severe problems on its back, where delamination had taken place to reveal the various gilding campaigns, painted layers and ground layers. Although rather despairing, the deterioration allowed insights into the preparation of the object during its creation. Courtesy of Norfolk Museums Service, T1878333.

From these visual observations, it was clear that the sensory significance of the objects was being compromised and necessitated immediate recourse. This was also since both angels were missing fingers and Angel A in particular was suffering from a fractured arm!

In the next chapter, join us as we report the analytic tests and research which were undertaken to  further comprehend the active deterioration and finally guide the treatment choices for the angels.

N.B. All photos by Claire D’Izarny-Gargas.

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3 thoughts on ““Shorty, you’re my Darling Angel…”

  1. Pingback: Characterization of Gilding Layers on Gilded Wooden Sculpture | Conservation Lab Chat

  2. Pingback: Let the Treatment Begin! | Conservation Lab Chat

  3. Pingback: A Heavenly Transformation – The Treatment Continues… | Conservation Lab Chat

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