Reproduction and Reconstruction In Furniture Conservation: The Conservation
The Conservation ‘Restoration’of a William and Mary high-back open arm chair.
This object of considerable historic importance was presented to me in a dire condition. The chair had extensive woodworm damage; was covered in gloss paint, all critical construction joints were broken and/or components were missing. Part of the sitting rails and both carved feet were missing. Previous attempts at repair saw supports added; these include side supports (for the legs), cross stretches, metal brackets and lower/upper supports on the seat. Even with all these added supports, the chair was still not stable. It was unable to bear the weight of a person and was not a usable item. A further description of the object follows:
‘…Beech ebonised black armchair with symmetrically arranged scrolls on front cross-stretcher and upper back rail. Side stretchers are turned and middle cross-stretcher. Moulded back and ‘elbows and knees’ shaped legs. Bold curved armrests and a cane sitting.’
We advised the client to conserve the chair. However; the client chose to push for full restoration, as he wanted the chair to be a functional item. The owner did not consider the removal of parts of the original chair a problem; as long as the chairs functional integrity was restored.
We chose to focus on retaining as much of the original materials as possible while completing a successful restoration. Some key decisions I made include: What types of materials should we use? How can we strengthen this historic object without compromising its integrity? Should I use traditional techniques when I restore the hand-carving details? Finally; as this object is for a private client, what are our responsibilities towards completing the task as quickly (cheaply) as possible?
Every decision we made was the result of considered research and consultation with/from the professionals in the workshops.