Shining the Knight: A Conservation Case Study
Recently the West Town-based Conservation Center shared a story with its clients and CGN about some recent restoration efforts, one of which involved an unusual and much-loved family "friend" who needed a bit of spit and polish, so to speak, to join shine in the modern age.
Following is the post from the Conservation Center.
By THE CONSERVATION CENTER
Over these last few months, we’ve spent a lot of quality time in our Conservation Lab with a new friend and have made a lot of great memories. We are talking, of course, about our friend Carlos, a suit of armor and mannequin that we had the joy of conserving.
Carlos is a Spanish-made suit of armor that has been an heirloom in the same family since 1967. Our client remembers, “My parents brought him back from their trip to Toledo, but hadn’t told us anything. I just came home from school one day and he was there!”
Over the years, Carlos became part of the family. The kids dressed him up in different wigs and beads for the holidays, including a flute of champagne to celebrate the New Year. “Carlos was certainly always a conversation starter,” our client told us, laughing. “Not everyone has a suit of armor in their house!”
The family knew it was time for Carlos to get some work done when he started leaning from various location changes. Before moving him to his next destination- the family beach house- they decided to send Carlos to us.
Carlos came to The Center in generally good condition, though his armor exhibited minor surface oxidation and subtle corrosion throughout, especially on the backs of the plates which exhibited moderate corrosion. The armor was also covered in a light layer of surface particulates, typical of his age.
Carlos’ armor came with a few leather pieces, which mainly served the purpose of joining different parts of the armor together, such as the escarcela to the peto, or the thigh and the breastplate, respectively. These leather pieces were extremely dry and cracked. The leather joining the hombrera and the espaldar, or shoulder and back plate, were rotted, not functioning properly, and were possibly not even original to the armor. The leather straps on the legs, however, appeared to be in good condition.
The sword that came to The Center with Carlos was covered in shellac from a previous restoration campaign that was failing and causing discoloration. His skirt, made of red velvet, was in a soiled condition. The color of the velvet was also considerably faded, particularly on the back side.
Carlos engaged in a photo shoot when he arrived to document his appearance before and after treatment. Next, the armor was carefully removed from the wooden mannequin and surface cleaned using the appropriate conservation methods and materials. All of the pieces were coated with wax to protect the metal and preserve the patina, including Carlos’ sword, which was surface cleaned after the shellac was removed.
The leather pieces of the armor were replaced as needed on the torso and shoulders, and the lower leather pieces were conditioned to preserve their longevity. The red velvet skirt was also surface cleaned using the appropriate conservation methods and materials.
Andrew Rigsby, The Center’s Assistant Conservator of Furniture, worked on the suit of armor and spent the most time with Carlos.
“We don’t see many sets of armor anymore, so it has been a lot of fun treating Carlos,” Andrew said. “The steel is of good quality and cleaned up really well with a weak tannic acid solution. Carlos is definitely ready to hang around a bit longer!”
After a lot of fun with Carlos here at The Center, it will be hard to say goodbye. But soon he will be off on a new adventure in his family’s beach house, where he will bring more joy and memories for years to come.
Check out Carlos’ Social Media Takeover!