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24.02.2017

Framing Perseus: Burne-Jones Art Frames Conserved

Three frames belonging to works of art by Burne-Jones have been conserved thanks to a grant from the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation

A permanent exhibit in Southampton City Art Gallery’s Baring Room, Burne-Jones’ Perseus Series paintings are some of the most well-loved works from the artist. The ten cartoons in gouache tells the story of Perseus, son of Zeus, who is sent to rescue Andromeda and kill the Gorgon Medusa. The series was worked on for ten years by Burne-Jones but was never completed due to his ill-health.

Having been created over 100 years ago, the frames were damaged and needed vital conserving. The Southampton City Art Gallery was able to secure funding from the Andrew Lloyd Webber foundation for three of the frames to be restored by frame conservator and Icon member, Thomas Proctor.

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An abridged extract from Thomas Proctor’s treatment report provides an insight into the delicate work required:

The three frames were made from pine with three lines of fluting in each rail and each were suffering similar levels of visible damage. All of the numerous and extensive losses on each frame were infilled using a polyester resin tinted with vegetable black pigment, although many of the areas of loss would need further applications of replacement resin as it is very difficult to apply the correct amount of resin in one application. Once the required additional infills of resin were applied they were left to harden well for up to three days.

They were then re-gilded using 23.5 carat loose gold leaf...

As well as many sections which needed to be infilled, the gilding also needed to be preserved. There were several small patches of bronze paint applied to the gilded fluting, presumably where the original gilding was lost or damaged. These patches of oxidised bronze paint were removed using acetone applied with a cotton wool swab. They were then re-gilded using 23.5 carat loose gold leaf, and adhered using an oil size. Once dry the freshly applied sections of gold were lightly rubbed through with 0000 wire wool especially at the edges where new gold joined the original.

Tate Britain are looking to borrow four of Burne-Jones’ works of art on paper for their forthcoming Burne-Jones exhibition in 2018 including The Death of Medusa (II).  The conservation work on these frames means these paintings will be enjoyed by even more people in the years to come. 

Lead Image: Death of Medusa II - Edward Burne-Jones, Southampton City Art Gallery

Collage Image: Volunteers, Ambrose Scott-Moncrieff and Ben Hall, at Southampton City Art Gallery carefully remove the frame from the art. Copyright: Joe Low Photography

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