Friday, 6 September 2013

Sculpture from up above

Last week’s conservation in action saw Michelle and I cleaning sculptures in the North Gallery from quite a height.

We focused on two of the sculptures in the Square (North) bay – Pandora and Prometheus and Vulcan, Venus and Cupid. These two sculptures, by Irish sculptor J.E. Carew, stand either side of the entrance to the bay.

It’s a good thing we’ve got a head for heights (or, at least, do now having been in this job for 6 months!), as to reach the top of the sculpture we needed to work on top of the scaffolding.

Cleaning the tops of Promethus and Pandora

We used a hog's hair brush and a vacuum cleaner to lift the dust away from the sculpture. The porous nature of the marble means we do not use any liquids on the statues. Wet cleaning has the potential to drive any dirt and stains further into the marble, creating more problems than it would solve.

Cleaning Vulcan!

Sculpted between 1827 and 1831, Venus, Vulcan and Cupid was commissioned as a pendant to Pandora and Prometheus, which was created between 1835 and 1837 and remained unfinished at the 3rd Earl of Egremont’s death. These two sculptures were intended for this space, before being moved to the Audit Room (now the National Trust Restaurant) in 1836-7. In 1992 they were restored to their original and current space in the North Gallery.

The Myths Behind the Sculptures

Prometheus and Pandora
In Roman mythology, Prometheus created the first man from clay, stole fire from the gods to give to mankind, was punished by Jupiter* and released from his torment by Hercules. His sister-in-law was Pandora, the ‘all-gifted’, who was fashioned from clay by Vulcan*. After Prometheus’s theft of fire, Jupiter’s retribution to mankind was the opening of Pandora’s box thus releasing all the world’s evils. Only Hope remained inside.
* NB: Jupiter is the Roman god; Zeus is his Greek equivalent.
Vulcan is the Roman god; Hephaestus is his Greek equivalent.
Venus, Vulcan and Cupid
Vulcan was the God of Fire and Blacksmith to the Gods. Carew has sculpted him seated on his anvil inscribed ‘AITNA’ – meaning the volcano Etna, located in Sicily – and resting on his hammer. His wife, Venus, and her son, Cupid accompany him.

Conservation Assistant

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