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Restoring the Mold gold cape

Restoring the Mold gold cape

Shaping the cape


Before it was restored in the 1960s, it was difficult to tell exactly what shape this remarkable object was. It consisted of flattened fragments of thin gold sheet, some large, some small, with cracks, splits and holes all over them. There were also areas missing.

The fragments of the cape were laid out flat, with likely joins matched. The largest fragment was from the back of the object.

A conservator from the British Museum made an outline drawing, which could be folded up into three dimensions. This gave a shape from which a plastic support could be made and on which the fragments could be arranged. Some of the repoussé decoration had been flattened while the object was in the ground. The conservator carefully pushed the decoration back into position with a wooden tool. As a result, these areas of gold sheet regained their original curvature. The form of a cape that fitted the shape of a person's shoulders became apparent.

Piecing the cape togetherReconstructing the capeThe cape mounted on its support

The conservator was now able to reconstruct the cape by joining the gold fragments with a water-soluble polyvinyl acetate (PVAc) adhesive. This was done on a backing of Terylene net.

As the fragile gold pieces were joined, the cape became unwieldy and had to be supported with an arrangement of specially designed and constructed clamps. Once all the fragments were joined, one large gap remained at the front. The gap was filled with a gilded copper plate, electroformed from part of the pattern. This allowed the cape to stand on its own, but for extra safety it was mounted on a fibreglass and resin support.


Images (from top, left to right):

Piecing the cape together
Reconstructing the cape
The cape mounted on its support