Explore / Articles

 

Conserving the mummy mask of Aphrodite, daughter of Didas

This gilded cartonnage mask, which was to be sent out of the British Museum on loan, needed to be made safe for display and travel. Splits in the mask's structure, at the back, required reinforcement and support: layers of a fine Japanese tissue paper were applied with an adhesive. The cartonnage itself also needed some attention. Areas of plaster that were lifting away from the structure were relaid, and exposed sections of linen bandages were secured by inserting pieces of fine, adhesive-impregnated, Japanese paper between the layers. Finally, lifting areas of gilding were gently relaid with an adhesive.

When unsupported, cartonnage is fairly flexible. It is particularly susceptible to changes in humidity and to damage caused by handling, so good internal support is essential. A mount was constructed to fit the inner contours of the mask. This involved the use of a lightweight glass reinforced polyester material. The malleable resin sheets were moulded to fit the inside of the mask and then hardened (cured) by exposure to ultraviolet light. The mount was padded and covered in a soft fabric. The mask was then eased onto the tailored support. A well-designed mount is often an integral part of conservation.