Crowning glory after Dora Gordine

By Suhue Kim

This plaster-based sculpture is a copy of Dora Gordine's Crowning Glory, originally in bronze. It is owned by the Dorich House Museum. The original piece is signed "Crowning glory by Dora Gordine," but this one shows "Crowning glory after Dora Gordine." It is a similar size to the original but was made in plaster. According to Dr. J. Black in his 2006 article, the original piece was commissioned in 1948 by the Eugene, Ltd. (early manufacturers of a permanent wave kit) as their trademark. It is a female nude and sits cross-legged on a base with a glass insert.

This object was painted with bronze powder (indicated by green corrosion on the stomach and thigh), and there are black colour drips/stains on the base. There is a previous repair on the neck of the object (filling). The main area of loss was on the left side of the base; there were also 13 small areas of loss of the surface showing white plaster beneath.

Because of the character of surface, I used a smooth brush with a museum vacuum to remove surface dirt. This was not very effective, so I tested solvents on the painted surface and black stain area. After testing deionised water, IMS, and acetone, deionised water was adequate for cleaning the painted surface but only acetone had any effect on the black stains. The solvents were applied with a cotton wool swab, and the dirt, stains, and green corrosion were all removed.

On the most stained section, there were stains on top of dirt, caused by a lack of general cleaning over the object's lifetime. I used scalpel to take off the black stains mechanically, and then used cotton wool with acetone to swab the areas two or three times. Acetone may affect the bronze-coloured surface beside and underneath of black stain, if over-applied. The sculpture needed extreme care during cleaning, because the material is unforgiving and not stable.

Cotton wool in IMS was used to clean the glass section.

Approximately 5% Paraloid B72® in acetone was used to consolidate chips and missing areas to limit penetration of moisture. I used glass bubbles, tiny glass spheres used to bulk fillers, to fill the losses. The bubbles were mixed with approximately 30% Paraloid B72, 35% IMS and 35% acetone, and left for 24 hours after application to cure.

I tested dry colour pigment, heavy-bodied acrylic (gold colours) and bronze powder with Golden® Acrylic Polymer Varnish with UVLS (acrylic/styrene copolymer solution: water-based medium) to see what would match the original colors. I ended up using dry colour pigment and heavy-bodied acrylic with Golden varnish.

Plaster is an interesting material to treat, especially with painted decoration. It was quite challenging work.