Meissen Pierced Dish: An Assembling Challenge

Two hard paste porcelain pierced dishes with over glaze enamel and gilding decoration broken in numerous fragments of very different sizes and shapes came to our hands all together in the same box. A small plastic bag containing a quantity of very small fragments was also in the same cardboard container-the challenge was set! The blue crossed swords mark painted under the glaze on the reverse indicates a date period between 1850 and 1924. A nick in the paste down the middle of the mark indicates that the objects were sold "white" out of the factory and decorated elsewhere outside the State factory.

The proposed treatment to the object shown considers surface cleaning, assembling of shards, bonding with epoxy resin by capillary action, colour filling with bulked and tinted epoxy resin and a little re-gilding to reinstate the filled areas of loss. The choice of assembling all fragments first and then bonding was due to the high risk of misalignment that could occur otherwise preferable process of applying adhesive onto the break edges and then assembling shard by shard.

Normally, when assembling ceramics for bonding by capillary action, a range of different tapes can be used to secure the shards while the adhesive is setting. However, an object with this morphology and decoration presented a few difficulties once one started to assemble it. Because of the sensitive gilding decoration, assembling shards with magic tape was not possible (in a larger scale) as the tape would damage de decoration when pulled. A test was made on the possibility of removing tapes by solvent softening prior to mechanical removal; it proved to be an acceptable solution if tapes were urgently need to secure shards in place.

So, the side shards were assembled with little drops of sticky wax heated away from the object with a heated spatula and carefully applied on to the break lines on both sides. Small shards were grouped in bigger and bigger fragments as the process evolved. By doing this, the final assemblage of the sided fragments on to the base section was more accurate and more easily accomplished. Small stripes of magic tape were placed in areas where the wax was insufficient to hold the object together and, at the same time, modelling wax wrapped in cling film was held under weak areas to confer tension to some sections.

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Acknowledging that these temporary supportive materials wouldn't safely secure the shards for a long time, the bonding procedures were put in practice as soon as the assembling process was completed. An epoxy resin was then prepared and doted onto the break lines. The chosen material was given time to travel throughout the joined sections and produce a secure bond after cured. Once the adhesive started to set, residues were removed from the surface and, when fully cured, wax dots were also removed to reveal a tight joint.

At the moment, areas of loss are being colour filled with bulked and tinted epoxy resin. Further developments will soon be reported. Any comments?