ARTIFACT CONSERVATION PROJECTS
FHC recently expanded its support of Hearst Castle to include art conservation.
Your help has already enabled us to conserve many important pieces, which are described below.
Mille Fleurs Tapestry
A stag hunt progresses across the fabric of this Franco-Flemish Gothic tapestry. It was woven around 1500,
and is a “mille fleurs,” or “thousand flowers” type of tapestry, characterized by the numerous blossoms
that decorate its ground. To help ensure that this piece survives another five hundred years, conservation
treatment included: gentle cleaning; re-weaving and repairing time-damaged sections; reinforcing the
stitching at separated areas, and re-lining the back of the tapestry with conservation-quality fabric.
As its name implies, this fabric panel was designed to cover the front of an altar. Made of ivory-colored silk
damask, with metallic embroidery and applied decoration, it was created in the 15th century to celebrate the
Jubilee year of Pope Clement X, which took place in 1675. The workmanship is Italian. Conservation treatment
will begin with the removal of previous repairs. The altar frontal will be cleaned and stabilized with hand-sewing
techniques that secure threads in both the ground fabric and the embroidered elements. Finally, the entire panel
will be mounted on a covered framework that evenly distributes the weight of the fabric to prevent further damage.
Located in Casa del Monte guest house, this pair of now-wingless angels were carved in Italy in the 16th or
17th century. The were painted, or polychromed, and gilded, as were many wood carvings of the Renaissance.
Conservation treatment for art pieces like these, composed of different materials, can be complex. The
conservator removed old re-touchings and repairs. The flaking paint layer was cleaned and consolidated,
and losses of paint and gilding were filled in with conservation-appropriate materials. The wood itself
was consolidated to repair losses due to old damage done by wood worm.
The provenance of this painting is uncertain. It depicts the Madonna and Child with a young St. John the Baptist,
and was purchased at auction in 1923 by William Randolph Hearst as a work of the “Italian School.” Stylistic
clues indicate it might even be Spanish. Extensive cleaning, as part of the painting’s conservation treatment
revealed the original colors intended by the artist. Other aspects of the conservation treatment included paint
stabilization and necessary re-touching. The frame was also cleaned, and losses of gesso and gilding were replaced.
Three Spanish banners of the 18th century are displayed in Casa del Mar guest house. Background fabric
of cream-colored silk satin features elaborate silk- and metallic-thread embroidery, and applied decoration,
such as sequins and faceted glass gems. The banner designs depict Spain’s coat of arms. Cleaning and removal
of the old fabric lining (or backing) will be the first steps in conservation treatment. Broken threads and
applied decoration will be secured, and the silk ground fabric and fringe stabilized. Finally, each banner
will be mounted on a covered framework to provide even weight distribution and avoid future stress to the fabric.
William Randolph Hearst Portrait
The portrait of William Randolph Hearst, painted by childhood friend Orrin Peck, hangs in the Gothic Study,
as it did during Mr. Hearst’s day. Painted in 1894, this portrait shows W.R. Hearst at age 31. Conservation
treatment involved cleaning, removing old re-touchings, and adding new areas of re-touching where necessary,
using conservation pigments. The canvas was also given a new lining with conservation fabric to provide
additional support in the future.
Discobolus, or the Discus Thrower, is of late 19th or early 20th-century manufacture. It is an Italian
copy in bronze of the original marble by Greek sculptor Myron (5th century B.C.). Detailed examination
during conservation treatment showed that the sculpture was still filled with plaster-like material used
in the original casting process. This material absorbs moisture, then causes salts to leach through the
pores of the bronze to the surface of the sculpture, resulting in corrosion and loss of metal; this material
was removed. The sculpture was cleaned, and corrosion and mineral deposits were removed from the surface,
which was then treated to arrest corrosion and to replace lost areas of metal. The patina of the surface was
re-touched where necessary, and the entire sculpture was waxed to help protect and preserve the bronze.
Funding for this project was graciously provided by the Sence Foundation.
Also known as “Nike of Brescia,” Winged Victory is an early 20th-century Italian bronze copy by Umberto Marcellini
of the original in the Roman Museum in Brescia, Italy. Winged Victory, unfortunately, shared the same manufacturing
defect that plagued Discobolus – casting material left inside the sculpture was causing corrosion. Conservation
treatment was essentially the same for both bronzes. Funding for this project was graciously provided by the
Portrait of Carlotta
This portrait of Carlotta, Empress of Mexico, was painted in 1864 by Franz Winterhalter, who was a painter to
the major courts of Europe from 1830 to 1870. Conservation treatment consisted of cleaning, removing discolored
in-painting, and covering paint losses with conservation colors. The backing material was replaced, and the frame
was cleaned and re-gilded. Funding for this project was graciously provided by the Sence Foundation.
Portrait of Maximilian
Also painted in 1864, Franz Winterhalter’s portrait of Maximilian, Emperor of Mexico, is a companion painting
to his portrait of Carlotta. Historically displayed as a pair, both paintings experienced the same kind of
environmental conditions through time, and required the same type of conservation treatment. Funding for
this project was graciously provided by the Sence Foundation.
This low sofa, covered with antique, probably Flemish, tapestry is located in William Randolph Hearst’s
Gothic Study. There is no record of purchase for this sofa, but analysis of the materials used to
construct it indicates that it was probably manufactured in America, using European tapestry.
Conservation treatment for this piece included: making patterns for all surface areas and contours;
removing fabric and trim, and cleaning and repairing it; reweaving damaged areas of tapestry; re-sewing
split seams; and finally, reupholstering the entire sofa.
Galatea on a Dolphin by Leopoldo Ansiglioni
The statue is Italian marble and bronze, created in 1883. Phoebe Apperson Hearst was a benefactor of
Ansiglioni, who created three versions of this statue. Her son William Randolph Hearst coveted the
piece as a young man and did eventually own this one. He originally considered placing it in front
of the Casa del Mar guest house but ultimately decided to showcase it more prominently in the pond
on the Central Plaza, facing Casa Grande's main entrance. Conservation efforts involved cleaning
the marble surface, reducing ferrous stains and stabilizing cracked and detached pieces. The statue
showed signs of “sugaring” and was treated with a compound to arrest this destructive process and
restore the smooth marble surface. Conservation was funded by Friends of Hearst Castle members
Dick & Diana Clark and Margaret and Charles Durnin.
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