Methods and Techniques for the Ecclesiastical Restoration of a Statue of St. Joseph

ECC

Raimonds Karveckis has completed advanced gilding at FlorenceArt studio of decorative arts in Florence, Italy and studied restoration techniques under the tutelage of Laurent Hissier, former restoration specialist at the Palace of Versailles in France and now a freelance master craftsman. Originally from Latvia, Raimonds has been based in Ballina, Co.Tipperary, Ireland since 2001, where he is well known in the area for his artistic abilities and he is the owner of Ecclesiastical Restoration Workshop.

http://ecclesiastical-restoration.ie/

ECCLESIASTICAL RESTORATIONS WORKSHOP

Using restoration techniques and materials sympathetic to the period in which the objects were made, the creative team in the workshop can undertake the repair and restoration of religious artefacts.

This includes specialist paint effects on walls such as frescos and gilding on dados and plaster trims as well as repairs to paintings and frames, furniture, metal ware, gilded objects, candelabras and other furnishings.

Of particular interest is the restoration of Church Statuary which includes nativity sets, statues, saints, altars and more.

Ecclesiastical Restorations is also an associate member of a network of antique restorers who work throughout Europe and America on government and privately backed restoration projects.

EXTENSIVE RESTORATION OF A STATUE OF ST. JOSEPH – METHODS AND TECHNIQUES

A local priest found this statue in a shed, where it had been neglected for 20 years and brought it to Raimonds for repair and restoration. Raimonds immediately saw the quality of the statue, only a high quality of plaster and workmanship could have resulted in its survival in such conditions. He puts the age of the piece at between 100 and 150 years old.

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The biggest repair job was to reattach the head. Raimonds first had to gain access into the statue, this was accomplished by cutting a section out from the rear, and he then made a wire armature and attached this first to the head and then the body after seating the head correctly with a two part epoxy resin.

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While working inside the statue, the chest area was found to be extremely thin. This was reinforced with plaster of paris and the gaps around the repaired head were filled out, taping the outside to hold the plaster in place.

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The panel was then replaced in the back of the statue and plastered in.

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The statue was missing a hand, so Raimonds commissioned a local sculptor to create a mold, from which a replacement was cast and attached using an armature and epoxy. The repair was again made good with plaster of paris.  The flower had a replacement stem made of plaster over a wire armature attached and was fixed to the statue.

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Cleaning, Painting and Gilding

After cleaning the statue with a specially made solution it was discovered that the paint on both faces could be saved. The rest of the statue was carefully sanded and hoovered before priming in a white basecoat.

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The paintwork on the heads and faces was touched up with casein paint as this was the paint most likely to have been used originally, unfortunately at the time casein paint proved hard to source so Raimonds used chalk paints on the main body of the statue. As the statue was to be placed up high on the wall of the church it was not necessary to seal the chalk paint.

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Raimonds moved onto the gold leaf ornamentation of the statues, a process that was to take a month to complete. The designs were laboriously hand painted in yellow ochre casein paint before being sized and gilded, a testament to the patience of the craftsman!

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To finish, a wooden base was commissioned from a local carpenter and this was finished in an old master technique by Raimonds. The wood was sealed with hot rabbit skin glue, then 12 coats of gesso were applied and carefully sanded before painting with casein paint, distressing, hand painting the ornament and sealing with shellac.  The base was then attached to the statue with evo bond universal pva.

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From start to finish the entire restoration process took a total of three months. The statue can now be seen on display in Our Lady & St. Lua church, Ballina, Co. Tipperary, Ireland.

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8 thoughts on “Methods and Techniques for the Ecclesiastical Restoration of a Statue of St. Joseph

  1. Laurent Hissier

    I would like That you know How
    i always find your art Work for restauration
    Really beautifull and always done with
    A big sensibility and with a High level of knowledge
    Félicitation for this restauration Raimonds
    Best regards
    Laurent

    Reply
  2. David R Agnew

    Ohh my goodness, how extraordinary!! I have not even read this article yet – only seen the pictures. I am going to make a coffee, take a comfortable seat & indulge. Be back later!!

    Reply
  3. David R Agnew

    That was fascinating reading….thank you very much. I appreciate the fine line between conservation & restoration – which is sometimes impossible!! with the colours though, & the design of the gilded ornament, did this have to be re-designed or was this determined by remaining evidence on the statue? Whatever, it looks superb – well done!

    Reply
    1. Raimonds Karveckis

      Thank you very much for so nice comment! I did try is much is possible save original age of the statue. In this project face did survive in good condition,to compare to rest of the statue.Just have to do some touch up with casein paint.The ornaments originally was painted by hand with shell gold.It was left about 25% of ornament details,the rest was lost by time.I had to make copy from original ornaments,by tracing paper.After I understand ornament original design,I start stick together and transfer ornaments by tracing paper and copy paper.After I got all ornaments transfered,I paint them with casein paint with consistence like water color.It is easy to paint and you can get very fine details and lines.After ornaments was pained I apply acrylic gold size on the same lines what was painted with paint.Because of limited budget we decide do gilding with faux gold.Which was after sealed with shellack.

      Reply
  4. David R Agnew

    Very interesting details. I think in certain cases, it is okay to be using modern materials, especially as so many of the old materials are now obsolete & unobtainable, both in cost & practicality. It is nice that at least some of the original craftsmanship has been preserved with the face & that you have documented & evidenced via pictures this fact. It is important in conservation, when we carry out work of this nature to document what we are doing, not just because we are in effect, destroying previous evidence but as a reflectance tool for continued learning for those of us in the craft.
    I wondered what I might have done with the hand, having a new one sculptured is of course the honest way – may just have filled a latex glove up with plaster & set an armature in with that!!!
    Thank you very much for sharing, you certainly put the smile back on old Joe’s face!!

    Reply
  5. Joann DePalma

    Thank u for this article. I volunteered to renew a statue. Would u be so kind as to give me info on removing paint from plaster and resin; what kind of sealer and paint to use? Any info would be greatly appreciated.
    Sincerely,
    JM DePalma

    Reply

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