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Nativity figures conserved just in time for Christmas service

Earlier this year, West Dean College of Arts and Conservation was asked to conserve a selection of painted plaster figures from a Nativity scene at St Mary the Virgin in Upwaltham, ahead of the local church’s Christmas service.  

Icon member and Conservation of Ceramics and Related Materials Programme Leader Lorna Calcutt ACR worked with a team of students in conserving the figures that potentially dated to the 19th century. “These lovely figures are part of the congregation’s Christmas celebrations and it is important to respect the material integrity of the objects, as well as their symbolic significance,” Lorna describes.


It was essential to allow the objects to be fully dry before undertaking any testing or conservation treatment, as "painted plaster objects from a church setting can often harbour moisture," Icon member and MA student Andriani Maimaridou explained. The figures of Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus were delicately surface cleaned, and areas of loss were filled, before the fills were retouched using acrylic resins. The Joseph figure required the most amount of work as the head had been detached from the body. Investigation and testing revealed that the two separated sections could be bonded with the benefit of gravity as they interlocked effectively.

The Conservation of Furniture team continues to work on a wooden crib that was also brought to the College.


Read more about the project here.


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