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Cleaning the Parian bust of Clytie

When manufactured, this Parian bust of Clytie was intended to look like marble. However, over time, the bust had acquired a dingy brown appearance from atmospheric pollutants. In such cases, steam cleaning is a method used by conservators to remove ingrained dirt from robust ceramics.

The steam cleaner heats water until steam is produced through a fine nozzle. The intensity and pressure of the steam can be controlled. However, objects with fugitive paint or gilding are not usually cleaned this way as the pressure can cause damage to the decoration. The bust of Clytie had no surface decoration and so steam cleaning was considered an appropriate way of removing the dirt. During cleaning, absorbent tissue was used to mop up excess water created by the steam coming into contact with the ceramic surface. To help the cleaning process, the conservator brushed a mild, dilute detergent on the surface to dislodge the grime further. The detergent was thoroughly rinsed away with distilled water. The white stripe on the back of the bust shows the difference between the cleaned and dirty surface.