Explore / Articles

 

Conserving a black-figured bowl (dinos) and stand, signed by Sophilos as painter

When this black-figured vase was acquired by The British Museum in 1971, it was in a restored condition with only a few areas of loss. It has since come to the Museum's Conservation Department three times. On the first visit, a conservator repositioned fragments with the artist's signature, Sophilos, so that it was easier to read. A few years later the Museum acquired five fragments which had originally belonged to the vase. Conservators removed areas of gap-fill to allow these fragments to be reunited. Neither job was simple. The old restoration was hard and difficult to remove.

Conservators were able to reassess the old restoration when the vase was examined during gallery refurbishment in 1983. The old adhesive and gap-fills were identified as a polyester resin, which had hardened and become brittle; there were cracks in the stand which may have been a direct result. Today, this type of resin is not considered appropriate for use on ceramic artefacts. It was decided that the vase would benefit from dismantling and reassembly using more stable and reversible conservation materials. Taking down the old joins and fills and manually cleaning away the polyester resin from fragments was a long process. The fragments were reassembled using a reversible adhesive and areas of loss were gap-filled using plaster of Paris and painted.

Once reassembled, conservators found that the stand was warped from its original manufacture, causing the whole vase to rock gently. It was also felt that the weight of the bowl was exerting too much pressure on the stand. A concealed mount was designed that would support the weight of the bowl and prevent further movement.