Conserving objects for Winterthur's upcoming exhibition, Dining by Design: Nature Displayed on the Dinner Table has been a fascinating experience. Throughout the process, strange phrases have become part of the Objects Lab's parlance: "Did you inpaint the chips on that fish drainer?" or "Let's x-ray this soup tureen!" and most notably, "I made a new webbed foot for a giant soup tureen in the shape of a goose today!"
Yes, a giant soup tureen in the shape of a goose. Because...why not?
Turns out creating soup tureens in the shape of animals was quite a "thing," especially during the 18th century Rococo period in Western Europe. Many of these whimsical creations form part of the largest collection of soup tureens in the world, the Campbell Collection of Soup Tureens, on permanent display in the Dorrance Gallery at Winterthur. A lot of the tureens that are not usually on display are featured in Dining by Design--especially in a pyramid of soup tureens!
The hard-paste porcelain goose tureen at the top of this page was manufactured in Jingdezhen, China between 1760 and 1780. It is actually not part of the Campbell Collection and was purchased by Henry Francis du Pont in the 1960s. While the tureen is structurally stable, its proper right foot has a very large piece missing. Because of the way it will be displayed, this loss would be especially visible.
In order to replicate a new foot in a reversible and ethical way (able to be distinguished by connoisseurs and conservators), I created a detachable plaster fill. I first sculpted a new foot out of Plasticine, then took a mold of that (pink material).I think created a barrier between the porcelain and the plaster of Paris using aluminum foil. I poured the plaster into the mold, allowed it to set and removed it so I could polish it away from the object and avoid the potential to scratch the glaze.
I then sanded the fill and put it in place as part. It was time to inpaint it so it visually blended with the rest of the foot. The brush-stroky appearance of the orange was very hard to replicate. I ended up using the grayish-green of the porcelain body with an orange color and blending it directly on the fill to replicate the surface texture. The reverse of the foot is painted titan buff to allow it to be very easily distinguished.
The goose is much happier now and ready to take its place with other water fowl in Dining by Design. Be sure to check it out soon!
Dining by Design: Nature Displayed on the Dinner Table opens April 1, 2018 and runs through January 6, 2019 at Winterthur Museum, Library & Garden.
Winterthur Postgraduate Fellow in Objects Conservation