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Thursday, May 16 • 9:30am - 10:00am
(Objects and Research and Technical Studies) Miniature Wax Sculptures At the Philadelphia Museum Of Art: A Technical Study, Treatment, and Gallery Presentation

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The Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) has one of the largest and most distinguished European portrait miniature collections in America. The collection comprises painted miniatures and waxes, both low relief and small sculptures, dating from the 16th to the 20th centuries. As part of a ten-month Samuel H. Kress Fellowship, the conservator worked closely with curators in order to establish joint priorities, to define consistent terminology, and to survey 190 waxes in the collection. In addition to the survey, exchange with colleagues, and visits to collections including the V&A and the Wallace Collection among others, the project culminated in the technical study, treatment, and recommendations for the long-term care of the wax collection. Eleven waxes were chosen to investigate materials, fabrication, and condition. The group selected for analysis included waxes from England, France, Germany, and Italy, manufactured between the 16th and 19th centuries. Samples from each of the eleven objects were analyzed using Fourier transform infrared microspectroscopy, scanning electron microscopy with energy dispersive spectroscopy, and pyrolysis-gas chromatography-mass spectrometry to characterize the waxes and the colorants used in the creation of these objects. From the eleven objects analyzed, seven waxes then were selected for treatment. The objects represented a range of treatments that will provide guidelines and methodologies for future conservation of the collection. Conservation treatment included structural repairs, compensation, and cleaning informed by the Modular Cleaning Program. The conservator and the curator worked in concert to prepare a focused installation, repurposing a free-standing floor case in a dedicated miniatures gallery. The case features recently treated waxes with their respective x-radiograph images, encouraging visitors to look more closely and consider how these delightful objects were made. The objects chosen for display highlight three major methods of manufacture: hand- built on metal armature, mold made with known multiples, and a pre-fabricated mold designed for amateur artists. This study is a model for collaboration between curators, conservators, and scientists. The result of the project has been a contribution to the wax miniature scholarship, specifically to the materials used and the methods of fabrication. The study also has informed the treatment of these delicate objects in a sensitive and confident manner.

avatar for Nicole M Passerotti

Nicole M Passerotti

Assistant Conservator, Field Museum
Nicole Passerotti is an assistant conservator at the Field Museum working with the Native North American collection. From 2017-2018 she was the Samuel H. Kress Fellow at the Philadelphia Museum of Art where she also completed her third-year graduate internship. She holds an M.A. and... Read More →

avatar for Alexandra Letvin

Alexandra Letvin

Andrew W. Mellon and Maude de Schauensee Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow, Philadelphia Museum of Art
Alexandra Letvin is the Andrew W. Mellon and Maude de Schauensee Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow in the Department of European Painting and Sculpture at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. She received her Ph.D. (2017) and M.A. (2011) in the History of Art from Johns Hopkins University... Read More →
avatar for Beth A. Price

Beth A. Price

Senior scientist, Philadelphia Museum of Art
Beth A. Price is the senior scientist in the Scientific Research Department at the PMA. Beth serves as a Board Member and Chair of the Infrared and Raman Users Group. She studied chemistry, art history and studio art at Rutgers University and the State University of New York.

Cathleen Duffy

Philadelphia Museum of Art, Scientist/Researcher
Kate Duffy is a scientist in the conservation department of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. She received a degree in chemistry from Hood College, Frederick, MD, and recently completed her PhD at the University of Birmingham, UK, on the application of metabolomics to the study of archaeological... Read More →
avatar for Melissa Meighan

Melissa Meighan

Conservator of Decorative Arts and Sculpture, Philadelphia Museum of Art
Melissa Meighan has been a conservator of sculpture and decorative arts at the PMA for over 35 years. Among her many areas of expertise are ceramics, sculpture, and the conservation of painted miniatures.

Thursday May 16, 2019 9:30am - 10:00am EDT
Salon B1, Uncas Ballroom
  Specialty Session, Objects and Research and Technical Studies