Text by Lynn C. McDaniel, Communications Specialist for the University Art Department
Photos by Heather Bennett, Collections Manager for the Forsyth Galleries
As mentioned in an earlier blog, conservation and care of the statues and memorials on campus is one of the jobs of the University Art Galleries Department. Some time back, the Forsyth Galleries made long-term loans of two sculptures to the Large Animal Clinic. Although the pieces were displayed inside the building, they were not kept in a climate-controlled environment. Eventually, time and the elements took their toll, and moisture collected under the bases, causing corrosion. Collections Manager Heather Bennett and Assistant Collections Manager Josh Harden recently brought the statues back to the Forsyth Galleries’ work area to clean them and ensure their preservation.
The sculptures, titled The Bellowing Bull and The Charging Bull, are sand-cast bronze. Artist Isadore Jules Bonheur, known for his domestic cattle and bull works, first exhibited this matching pair of bulls at the 1865 Paris Salon. The stunning bronzes feature a deep brown patina with prominent casting details that give the bulls a sense of realism and muscular motion.
The moisture that had collected under the base was causing the bronze to oxidize. Josh used a toothbrush and ionized water to clean away the active corrosion. Ionized water is water that has had its acid and alkaline content segregated. After the first cleaning, the object will be cleaned again with baking soda to completely neutralize the active corrosion.
Once the cleaning is complete, the statues will be returned to the Large Animal Clinic for the continued enjoyment of those who work, study and visit that facility.
1.) The Victoria and Albert Museum: The Artificial Patination of Bronze Sculptures: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/journals/conservation-journal/issue-31/the-artificial-patination-of-bronze-sculpture/
2.) Causes of Corrosion: http://water.me.vccs.edu/concepts/corrosioncauses.html