From marble to mussels: a similar treatment approach to dissimilar materials

Judy Ozone and Abigail Mack


The conservation treatments devised for two important sculptures in the collection of the National Gallery of Art were found to be unexpectedly similar in approach and choice of materials, despite the fact that each sculpture is substantively different from the other in terms of materials and methods of fabrication, as well as in artistic motivation and conception.

Damage to a 1786 marble portrait by Jean-Antoine Houdon rendered the sculpture so physically compromised that even the most careful handling in the course of treatment could cause further damage. The construction of the mixed media Panneau de Moules by Marcel Broodthaers had weakened in the forty years since its creation in 1966; thousands of mussel shells held together by polyester resin were tenuously attached to a desiccated particleboard support. The physical configuration of damage in each object presented logistical challenges that made developing an effective yet safe treatment especially difficult.

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2008 | Denver | Volume 15