A case study – Bow Factory Goldfinch

By Ronnie Kam

This is a soft paste porcelain goldfinch figure made by the Bow factory c1765. The polychromatic goldfinch is standing on a stem with five small protruding flowers and green leaves as decoration.

Two labels are attached on the figure. One is at the back of the goldfinch and the other was found underneath. The labels were to remain attached.

Dimensions H: 100mm W: 90mm D: 50mm

Condition on acceptance:

The figure was broken into 7 fragments. The key detachments were found at 1) tail, 2) right leg, 3) yellow protruded flower at upper right corner of the stem and 4) beak. Previous restoration work was revealed. The detached tail was a replica and made up of other material (possibly plaster). There were traces of old adhesive material left at the bonding edges. Old retouching was also found on the tail and leaves. There appeared to be areas of loss and some retouching areas to some green leaves; however, this may prove to be manufacturing faults of the original design or not, moreover the retouching is in good condition, so no conservation treatment is needed to compensate the loss or remove the old retouching. Overall the surface was mildly dusty.

The detached tail is made up from a different material, identified through microscope analysis at the cross section view. Previous colour retouching is found-although nicely done, the paint layer is now cracking.



The object was dry cleaned with a soft brush.

The surface was wet cleaned with 20% IMS in deionised water with several drops of (pre-diluted) Synperonic® A7 by cotton wool carefully so that the labels were not affected.

After general cleaning, extensive old retouching was revealed. After consideration, yellowed old retouching was removed by cotton swab with acetone. During cleaning with acetone, there was further discovery of old plaster filling at the tail. All previous fills were removed by water and acetone applied by swab.

Bonding all the fragments

All the broken edges were kept clean before bonding. A dry run was performed and a bonding plan was created. 35% w/v Paraloid® B72 in acetone was applied for bonding supported with pressure-sensitive tape while curing.

Making up the new tail.

Before the discovery of extensive previous filling around the tail, several new tails were made with dental plaster (Basic Alpha) with the help of Rapid Soft moulding material on the old tail.

However, after the removal of old filling at the tail, the actual size of the real tail was found to be much smaller. Therefore, a new tail was made from modeling wax freehand. To protect from any modeling wax material left on the edge, Parafilm was wrapped around the leading edge.

More research was done on the Bow factory goldfinch figures compared to real goldfinches to determine the final shape of the new tail.

Second attempt to make the tail

Modifications to the plaster were made according to images of real goldfinches. The tail was attached to the body by 35% Paraloid B72 in acetone. Areas of loss at the join were filled with Flugger using a dental tool. Micro-mesh abrasive cloth was used to smooth the surface. Acrylic colours were used for colour retouching.

The finished sculpture