< SCULPTURE AND MONUMENTS
 
< Bronze: example


THE QUADRIGA
 
  (Adrian Jones, 1912)
location: Wellington Arch, Hyde Park Corner, London
client: English Heritage


Photo1

 

This vast sculpture depicts Peace standing on a four-horse chariot, driven by a young boy. It is 12 metres high and 13 metres long, and was the largest public sculpture in Britain until the erection of Antony Gormley’s
Angel of the North.

The history of the Quadriga is a complex, tortuous tale of false starts, political manoeuvring, apathy, public outcry and ultimately, lack of appreciation for the sculptor Adrian Jones who produced the monument we admire today.

Our conservation, which took place in 2000, included the repair and replacement of the corroded support structure, full cleaning, repatination and waxing. For a detailed description of the conservation work, please scroll down.
 

   
The bronze casting was supported by its original, complex steel and iron armature, which had corroded badly. Some elements of the armature had corroded away completely, while other parts of the structure were being distorted and weakened by rust jacking. By contrast, the fabric and the structure of the bronze was found to be very good showing little sign of casting faults, porosity or poor craftsmanship, a testimony to the Thames Ditton Foundry who cast it.

   
Photo2
 
The surface of the bronze however displayed copper carbonate (green) corrosion at all points where the old lanolin/wax coating had failed, a result of poor maintenance. Underside surfaces showed more severe pit corrosion. In some areas of excessive surface coating, detail was almost obliterated from view by the shear thickness of the lanolin/wax and dirt.

The approach to the conservation was one of a balance between restoring the original visual aesthetic of the piece, while striving for a minimum intervention policy where at all possible.
 
Cleaning of the structural steelwork began using a low-pressure air abrasive system with garnet blasting sand. On completion of blasting, a primer was applied to all exposed surfaces. At this point the damage to the structural support could be assessed and a program for removal and replacement was established and carried out.

Cleaning tests were carried out to the bronze to establish the most appropriate method. It was considered prudent and more ethical in conservation terms, to first steam clean the surface of the bronze. Having achieved a surface suitable to repatinate over on 90% of the sculpture by the steam cleaning process, further test were carried out and the remaining old black lanolin/wax was then selectively cleaned using a low-pressure air abrasive system.
 
Photo3  
After cleaning it was evident that overall the structure was in very good condition. Repairs were carried out to a few problem areas.

During the cleaning process, areas that had been protected by the black lanolin/wax were revealed to have evidence of the original dark brown patina. It was therefore decided that the patination should be carried out to attempt to reinstate this colour over the whole of the sculpture. Tests were carried out and an agreed colour was established.

Patination to the agreed colour was successfully carried out using traditional methods.
 
Once the dry colour had been achieved over the sculpture, it was waxed using a clear microcrystalline wax, applied to a warmed surface. Once this was achieved all over the bronze surface three more cold coats of clear wax were applied to build up a substantial protective layer. Each cold coat of wax was applied and left for at least an hour to harden and then buffed by hand to compact its surface. On the fourth and final coat of wax the buffing was confined to highlighting only.
 
Photo4  
Hard wax filling was then carried out to all areas of minor surface flaws (porosity, cracking, hairline cracks at junctions), and to a few larger flawed areas, to eliminate water traps. The wax is applied in a softened state and then burnished to complete the surface form. Bird mesh protection was then installed.

Several moulds were taken from parts of the sculpture and cold cast bronze copies were produced for the purpose of illustrating the vast scale of the bronze at the Visitors’ Centre in the Wellington Arch.

All the areas moulded were washed and rewaxed after this process had taken place to ensure the protective coating had not been depleted in any way.
 
Finally the bronze dedication plaque to Adrian Jones was restored.
 
Photo5
 
Back to top