April 1995 Issue 15
Conservation course abstracts: update
It is some time now since we have had the opportunity in this Journal to publish abstracts of the written work presented by students on the RCA/V&A Conservation Course. As explained previously, MA students submit four pieces of written work (besides their conservation documentation) for assessment towards their degree. These include a History of Art or Design Essay, a Science Essay, a History of Materials and Techniques Essay and a report based on the Final Year Project. MPhil students, by contrast, are obliged to submit only two documents. The first is a formal Research Proposal, prepared early in the studentship, which sets out in detail the work they propose to do. The second is the Research Thesis which sets out the work they have done by the end of their period of research.
Most students answer set questions for their Science Essays and so there is little point in presenting abstracts. Hopefully, by presenting abstracts for the other written and research exercises, we can illustrate the diversity of the Course and the interests of its students. There are too few pages available here to catch up completely, so we begin in this issue with a selection. More will follow in subsequent Issues.
Art and design history essays
Arians MakauJanuary 1995
Stained Glass Conservation
'Illuminated Simulacrum: Divining the Sacred through Stained Glass and Cyber Space'
4118 words with 5 colour figures and 1 black & white figure
Light is then considered in depth, first in terms of the elusive qualities which lead to it being a simulacrum for the sacred, then how this attribute enables it to create an alternative space from reality called hyperspace and finally - using the metaphor of a window or passageway - describing how light enables a viewer to reach this space.
The essay discusses how this transition is facilitated by more realistic and interactive media and how, as a consequence, the response to both stained glass and computer imaging depends on the quality of the material. The apex of the stained glass movement was reached during the fifteenth century when depth illusion was at its forte. Using specific examples, it is shown that a decline occurred soon after with a loss of mystique in the art form.
Finally, a parallel is drawn between the development of three-dimensional computer graphics and the fluctuating reactions to stained glass. Predictions for the fate of cyberspace are made using stained glass as a template.
'Eric Gill: The Stations of the Cross at Westminster Cathedral'
5783 words with 17 illustrations
The essay considers how the sculptures fitted into Gill's career as a sculptor and his life as a Roman Catholic. Gill became a Roman Catholic in 1913 and proceeded to promote his faith through his work. The methods by which Gill worked are discussed as these were not typical of the period. The style which he employed was one of simplicity, creating shallow relief panels, depicting almost diagrammatic figures surrounded by precisely carved lettering. Gill had strong views on the way in which the Stations should be viewed, not as works of art, or decorations but as furniture in the Cathedral to aid meditation. His style attracted much contemporary criticism. Since Gill's death in 1940, the Stations have continued to attract comment and are generally respected as one of his most critical projects.
Musical Instruments Conservation (in collaboration with the Horniman Museum)
'Musical Imagery of Italian Renaissance Maiolica at the Victoria & Albert Museum'
January 1995 5067 words
8 black and white illustrations
This essay is concerned with musical imagery, specifically with those decorative motifs which are associated with the ceramics of 15th and 16th century Italy. The object is to identify instruments and analyse themes with which they are associated. Consideration is also given to the symbolism and context of the instruments.
The collection of maiolica at the V&A has been catalogued at various times with two major publications in 1933 and 1977. Both of these catalogues contain extensive notes on the illustrations. This document deals with an area which is not touched on in the existing studies.
An inspection was made of the collection and notes were made of the items with a musical decorative theme. These were referred to in the catalogue and attempts were made to identify the instruments. In some cases this was fairly easy because of the context (e.g. if an angel is blowing into a tapered object it is a safe bet it is meant to be a trumpet). Otherwise a bit more research was needed. There were some illustrations which were frankly impenetrable. It was clear that a musical theme was being suggested but the objects were utterly baffling and could best be described as `Musical things'.
The essay does not include full details of every musical instrument that appears, nor does it provide a comprehensive catalogue of musical subjects or ceramic items. The history of the technical development of the instruments which are portrayed is a long and complex subject. It is touched upon where a point of historical interest is amplified; otherwise the reader is referred to the Grove Dictionary of Musical Instruments.
Ceramics & Glass Conservation
'Mould Breakers? An Analysis, within a European Context, of the Employment and Work of Women at the Doulton Lambeth Art Pottery'
4300 words with 12 illustrations
The late nineteenth century was a time of great change in Europe. Revolutions in science, art and society in general, were causing reassessments of previously unchallenged attitudes. One outcome of these changes was the increased opportunities for women in the workplace. This essay looks at the opportunities available to women in the pottery industry in Europe, concentrating on the Doulton Lambeth Art Pottery.
The Lambeth studio was established by Henry Doulton as part of the Doulton Company which produced sanitary wares. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Henry Doulton has a reputation for having been a fair employer and very enlightened where the employment of women was concerned. The essay assesses whether this reputation is deserved. It also looks at the work of the women designers and decorators at Lambeth, both generally and highlighting some key womens' work. By comparing their designs to those of their contemporaries in Britain and in Europe, their degree of innovation and whether they took advantage of their alleged preferential employment situation, is examined.
This essay is only concerned with women pottery designers and decorators in Europe because the flow of ideas mainly occurred within Europe. Intra-European comparisons are also more valid because the timing of social changes in countries in Europe are similar.
In conclusion an argument is made as to whether either the employment policy or work of women at the Doulton Lambeth Art Pottery were mould breaking.
'Architectural Paint Studies Moorish Influences on English Nineteenth Century Interior Design'
6171 words with 26 illustrations
This essay traces the influence of Moorish design and ornamentation on English interior decoration in the 19th Century. The origins of Islamic design are examined, beginning with the first English contacts with the style in the form of imported luxury goods, as well as its appearances in architectural forms towards the end of the 18th Century. Examples of Moorish design in 19th Century England are looked at chronologically commencing with its romantic manifestations in the first half of the century, followed by its influence on the design reform movement in the middle decades. Finally, the exploitation of the style's associations with pleasure and the exotic towards the end of the century is examined in terms of the effect it had on interiors of this period. The Arab Hall of Leighton House, London, is considered in greater depth as a mature example of the Victorian use of Moorish design in the creation of a fashionable interior in the second half of the 19th Century.
Lynne Humphries Sculpture Conservation
'Cycladic Figurines: Influences and Developments'
4850 words, 27 figures, 2 diagrams
The figures and statues of the Cycladic Islands, in the heart of the Aegean Sea, have caught the attention of the modern world, not only because of their tranquil beauty but also because of the skill prevalent at the time to produce such works in marble. The first have been dated at about 5000 BC and they were produced almost continuously until 1500 BC. The tools of the bronze age had not yet been invented at the start of their production and yet the highly stylised carving is of a very high quality.
The essay looks at the various carvings of the female form throughout the ages, many occurring simultaneously right across the globe, concentrating on the figures and sculptures of the Cyclades. Several theories are suggested as to the purpose or function of these beautiful pieces, and discussed, but answers may only be found back in time. We can only speculate.
History of materials and techniques essays
Ceramics & Glass Conservation
'A Kind of Alchemy. The Techniques and Materials used in the Early Production of Reduced-Pigment Lustre and its Conservation'
6950 words with 10 illustrations
The essay is concerned with lustre ware techniques of the past. Some wares made with this technique naturally show some wear and damage. The type of damage one might expect to find on reduced-pigment lustre ware is highlighted and how a conservator might recreate the lustre effect described. Suggestions on how future damage can be prevented is also given.
No attempt is made in this essay to cover the origins or spread of lustre ware throughout the world, nor does it chart the development of lustre designs or pigment colours.
Marie -Therese Weech
'Ivory and Ancient Techniques Used in its Working'
6400 words with illustrations
The essay includes a study of the anatomical differences of various ivories including elephant, mammoth, hippopotamus, walrus, boar, narwhal, and sperm whale based on literary source, ivory samples and detailed slides of ivory. The result is a simple reference and identification aid. The second part of the essay deals with the ancient techniques used in the working of ivory including the preparation of the material and the tools used in carving as well as the various characteristic styles of decoration.
'English Japanned Paper Ware'
8118 words with 8 illustrations
The focus of this essay is the japanned and ornamented Georgian and Victorian papier-mache of the English Midlands, where early mass-production techniques and traditional manual finishing and decorating were combined to develop the craft into an industrial art. The essay is concerned with the materials and techniques used in the japanning and the manufacture of papier-mache in the period 1770-1870. It also covers the development of the materials and techniques of decoration, and how the Georgian and Victorian craftsmen combined different skills in a product.