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News Student Blog: Metropolitan Museum of Art

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​Using clamps for structural reinforcement of the candlestands during treatment.

After an exceptional summer work project at the J. Paul Getty Museum, I drove across the country to New York City for my third-year internship at the Metropolitan Museum of Art (the MET). 

It's a great fortune to work with the conservation team for furniture and wooden artifacts, on the New British Galleries project, which would reopen in March 2020. There were five members in the team including me. They're Lisa Ackerman, Nick Pedemonti, Ivo Kipre, assistant conservators, and supervised by Mecka Baumeister, conservator in the Objects Conservation Department. Mecka and I got to know each other when she supervised my training in the CRAFT Program at the Palace Museum, Beijing, in 2016. It's a great opportunity to reconnect with her and work together in the different context. 

The collection of English decorative arts at the MET is the largest and most comprehensive outside of Britain. The renovation and reinstallation project, or the New British Galleries project launched in 2014. The British arts in the galleries will be presented in chronological sequence from the 16th to the 19th century and more clearly defined by chronological narrative, better lighting, and more extensive interpretation. The project also calls for a reconsideration of much of the furniture and the incorporation of outstanding tapestries, ceramics and silver. There is a great need for conservation of these objects. 

I got involved with the conservation treatments of furniture and preparations for the opening. I worked with Lisa and Nick on two projects, a "seaweed" cabinet and a "court" cupboard, and I worked on a pair of candlestands as my individual project.

This pair of candlestands is in the style of Chippendale in Chinese taste. It is believed that the pattern of the candlestands originated from Thomas Chippendale's celebrated pattern book, The Gentleman and Cabinet-maker's Director. The candlestands are made of mahogany. The fretwork shafts of the body are laminated with three layers of wood in cross-grain directions. Each shaft consists of three sections of geometrical fretwork, joined along the center edges with glue and ends in tripod bases. The bases have cabriole legs decorated with a pattern of scrolls and interlacing bands, which enclose an area at the knees of faceted lozenges. The pad feet are decorated with scrolls centering on a rosette. 

Left: ​WUDPAC Class of 2020 Fellow Yang Xu making final adjustments to the candlestands in the museum's galleries. (Photo: Mecka Baumeister) Right: The candlestands on display in the museum's British Galleries. MET accession numbers 66.64.9 and 66.64.10.

After comprehensive examination that included X-radiography and UV photo documentation, a treatment plan was proposed and approved in discussion with Mecka and Wolf Buchard, Associate Curator of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts.  

The treatment focused on reversing the old repairs, structural reinforcement, and enhancement of visual aesthetics. The old glue residue was removed and the gallery sections on the top were realigned. Custom jigs were made for clamping and the loose central joints of the fretwork shafts were glued and strengthened. I conducted loss compensation on the fretworks with different materials such as mahogany, Modostuc, and PC Woody epoxy resin. Dry surface cleaning and reactivation of the wax finish improved the surface quality. The fills I made were inpainted with acrylic paints and watercolor, and the gloss was matched with synthetic MSA varnish. Final adjustment of the retouching was conducted in the gallery under exhibition lighting conditions. 

With the effort and hard work of the entire conservation team and in collaboration with different departments across and outside the museum, the British Galleries successfully reopened to the public on March 2nd, 2020. It's a unique and enjoyable experience to see my project displayed in the well-designed new galleries, and to introduce the objects to my friends and colleagues. 

Only ten days after the opening, the Metropolitan Museum of Art experienced the longest temporary closure in its history due to the COVID-19 pandemic, during which it also celebrated its 150th Birthday. It's hard to imagine New York City without the MET, and I am heartbroken to see the whole world suffering. While working from home, I'm constantly inspired and encouraged by my colleagues, who share and care with their enthusiasm of art and love of humankind.

I'm proud to be one of them. 

Hang in there, we never close.   

— Yang Xu, WUDPAC Class of 2020

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In this blog post, WUDPAC Class of 2020 Fellow Yang Xu talks about working with the furniture and wooden artifacts conservation team at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on objects for the reinstallation of the museum’s British Galleries.

In this blog post, WUDPAC Class of 2020 Fellow Yang Xu talks about working with the furniture and wooden artifacts conservation team at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on objects for the reinstallation of the museum’s British Galleries.

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  • The Department of Art Conservation
  • 303 Old College
  • University of Delaware
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • Phone: 302-831-3489