Conservation Case Studies

Eve by Auguste Rodin

Treatment undertaken in 2001

Condition Prior to Treatment

This sculpture was in poor condition overall. The surface was uneven and showed the wear of several previous campaigns of treatment. The previous treatments included alternating layers of an acrylic lacquer coating and wax. Both of these coatings were tinted in an effort to integrate the surface. There were large areas of shattered and peeling wax. There were visible brushstrokes. There was delamination of a pale green coating. There was an unsaturated band all around the bottom of the sculpture. The surface was not unified in any way and there were large dark green spots that interrupted the false pale green patina.

Treatment Objective

The treatment of Rodin's Eve accomplished two things. First, the old, degraded coating was removed. This step revealed the surface of the sculpture that had been camouflaged by previous conservation treatments. The second part of the treatment was to make any adjustments to the surface that were necessary in order to integrate the patina.

Treatment Steps

  1. The sculpture was photographed before and after treatment using color 35mm slide film. Digital images were taken as well.

  2. The sculpture was washed using distilled water and a nonionic surfactant. The surface was then rinsed with distilled water and dried.

  3. The previous coatings were removed using the following methods:
    a. Solvents. Solvents were used on swabs, rags and as a poultice on cotton. The solvents were able to soften and remove most of the previous layers of conservation coatings.
    b. Steam. A portable steam unit was used to soften the wax and resin coatings that were bonded more tenaciously to the surface. This was purely a surface interaction and did not raise the temperature of the metal high enough to change the color of the underlying patina.
    c. Mechanical. Sharpened wooden skewers and scalpels were used to remove a thick, brittle pale green layer from the surface. This green layer was directly on top of an even, dark brownish black color.
    The green layer is loosely adhered to the surface, clearly not an original coloration of any kind. It is easily separated from the dark layer below, and there is a clean separation of the layers. If the green were a patina layer, it would be impossible to separate from the underlying metal surface. The darker color is a thin layer directly adhered to the bare metal. This dark layer also seems to have a very thin coating of some kind; it feels waxy to the touch. This dark layer is closer to the original surface finish than the green layer. This green layer was removed from the proper right back of the upper thigh, the stomach, the proper right side of the torso, including the breast, and the outside of the proper left thigh.

  4. The surface coloration was adjusted as necessary in the following way:
    a. Patina Chemicals. This option was enacted only after permission was given by then-director of the Nasher Sculpture Center, Steve Nash. Consultation with Andrew Lins, Head Conservator at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, resulted in the following information. According to Mr. Lins, who is recognized as a leading conservator of Rodin's work, the typical patination given to outdoor bronzes like Eve was repeated applications of sulfuric acid. The Limet brothers, who worked in the Rudier Foundry, kept notes on this process which results in a dark brownish black. The figure was then typically coated with an oil or wax. In letters that Rodin wrote, he describes this coloration as well. He further describes the inevitability of verdigris, which he did not mind occurring as part of the natural aging process. He did not intend for this dark green coloration to be applied intentionally. Based on this information from Mr. Lins, as well as the interpretation of the various layers of corrosion and coatings on the surface of Eve and discussion with Steve Nash, the areas of lightest green corrosion that were not removed in step 3 were chemically darkened in order to integrate with the surface more effectively. There were visually distracting areas on the proper right and proper left upper thighs, the calves on both legs, and a section of the proper right hip and waist. These areas, along with the uneven coloration on the horizontal surface of the base, were toned using a hot application of dilute liver of sulfur. This changed the corrosion layer from a very pale green to a darker green. It was understood that with the application of hot wax the overall surface coloration would unify to dark green, black and dark brown areas.

  5. A coating of wax was applied to the surface as a protection against atmospheric pollutants, acid rain and interaction with the public. The coating was applied hot in order to provide a better protective coating and visually integrate the surface coloration. The wax mixture chosen was a blend of microcrystalline waxes that melt at or above 200 degrees. The final coating was a layer of cold paste wax, which was allowed to dry and then buffed.