Part 1 of 3
We had one day to complete this ceiling repair at The Frick Collection (1 E 70th St in Manhattan). We received a call about a piece of plaster that had fallen from the 90 year-old ceiling in the main gallery. Apparently, there was water damage from the roof that had left the medallion just hanging on and it eventually fell (nobody was hurt, luckily).
Being able to complete a job like this from start to finish, shows versatility. There’s so many techniques in this “small touch-up” that we had to break it up in 3 posts: upcoming plaster repair and making a plaster mold.
In this post, we’re focusing on the job as a whole and the decorative painting.
The hole.The museum gathered all of the pieces. Luckily the main medallion was in good shape.
They were sent to our shop, where we looked at them closely. For the sake of preservation, we did a color analysis to establish the 3 main colors used, the glazing, and the gilding.
To save time, we pre-mixed the values of colors and selected the gold leaf that would match.Our supplies were delivered by messenger service. In NYC, it pays to pack efficiently. The shop. Not too shabby. Under the watchful eye of the old masters – Franz Haltz, Turner, Vermeer, Rembrandt, etc.
The area was protected. The museum provided the work lift. This is the hole from above.The pieces were affixed and filled with a casting plaster and secured to the ceiling. See upcoming post: Plaster ceiling repairFor a missing smaller ornament, a cast (purple area) was formed and we later made a mold. See post: How to make a moldOnce the ceiling was ready for paint, a coat of natural amber shellac was applied. This is an essential step to seal the raw plaster.Finished painting shellac.A moisture meter was used to be sure the surface was dry enough to continue painting due to the fresh plaster repair.This is a good reading. At 22% moisture, it is just on the cusp. Because the roof is open (unsealed), the moisture can continue to escape from the backside. It was OK to continue painting.The base paint that was pre-mixed in the shop was applied with a detail brush (long or short pointed).
The final decorative layer is gilding. In this case, I used a patent 22.5K surface leafing (slightly heavier weight than regular leaf).Water size was applied to the tips with a sable pointed brush. The leaf was applied once the size had dried to tacky. Rondin brushes are excellent for transferring gold leaf to a sized surface as well as applying the size.Finished touch-up.