Splendours of the Subcontinent: Conservation post

This week’s entry linked to the Splendours of the Subcontinent exhibition (opening in March 2017 at Cartwright Hall) is taking a look at some of the conservation work undertaken to get items ready for it.

In preparation for the opening of the Splendours of the Subcontinent exhibition in March, a number of objects going on display have undergone conservation, including a beautiful address casket presented to the Prince of Wales during his visit to Wazirabad in Pakistan.

Throughout his tour, the Prince was presented with gifts to welcome him to a city and often to commemorate an event that the Prince was partaking in. One such event was the opening of the ‘Alexandra Bridge’, in Wazirabad. In honour of his visit, the Prince was asked to hammer in the last rivet of the bridge, and was later presented with a beautiful address casket and the hammer he had used as a memento of the event.

 Illustrated London News Ltd. All rights reserved. Illustrated London News Ltd. All rights reserved.
Illustrated London News Ltd. All rights reserved.

Presented by Alexander Grant, Chief Engineer of the Punjab Northern State Railway, the steel address casket is decorated all over with gold patterning and Persian inscriptions.

Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016
Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

In preparation for the casket going on display, Senior Metalwork Conservator, Sophy Wills has undertaken conservation to remove small patches of iron corrosion on the surface of the casket.

a portion of the cartouche containing the Persian inscription on the lid of the casket; the dark brown patches are rust.
A portion of the cartouche containing the Persian inscription on the lid of the casket; the dark brown patches are rust Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016.

Rather than using a sharp instrument like a scalpel, the iron corrosion is removed with a mother-of-pearl point. The edge of the mother-of-pearl flint is sharp enough to dislodge the corrosion without removing any of the blued steel surface.

Image 4 - rust being dislodged with mother-of-pearl point
Mother of pearl point Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

 

close up of dislodged rust
Close up of dislodged rust Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

The powdery rust is then removed using a solvent swab.

Removing the rust produce with a solvent
Removing the rust produce with a solvent Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

This is a lengthy process, and the rust is particularly challenging to remove on the gold patterning as the overlaid decoration is so dense. Once all the rust is removed from the casket, it is waxed with microcrystalline wax to protect the surface of the casket and to unify the appearance.

 

Image from before treatment
Before treatment Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

 

During treatment Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016
During treatment Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

 

After treatment
After treatment Royal Collection Trust/© Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II 2016

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