Hello, my name’s Jennifer Barsby, I’m a recent RCA/V&A conservation course graduate and this was the object which formed the main part of my work in my final year of the three year course. It’s an umbrella for the Maharaja’s exhibition and it was in quite a poor state when we received it in the studio. It had been stored flat in a drawer and you can see there’s quite a lot of areas which look like fading but it’s actually loss to the pile of velvet. The first part of the conservation treatment was to produce a temporary mount which would enable me to condition assess the object and to enable access for adequate conservation treatment. It wasn’t until we put the object on the mount that we could see that there was another symbol around this side. So we have the moon here and the Rajput sun, that was actually on the reverse side of the object in the drawer, so it wasn’t until we put it onto the temporary mount that we realised that those were there. Other elements are the finial and the flower-shaped base which actually sit on top of the umbrella.
A really interesting part of this project is that it has enabled us to undertake some really important analysis. We’ve been able to identify the metal studs as copper, which has been mercury gilded and this is the same for the finial and base. And the circle shaped pieces here are pure silver. The metal thread in the fringes is gilded silver as well. We’ve also had the opportunity to have some x-ray analysis done and this picture is blown up from the x-ray and it shows the back of the metal studs with a little curl behind, it’s actually a quite thin wire. So the conservation treatment has been mostly cleaning, the metal elements which had a greasy kind of dirt and the silver foil had quite dark coloured tarnish on it. There was a hope at one point that we could try and ease some of the distortion using humidification, but because there are so many metal parts it was thought that that was too risky because we could cause further damage and corrosion to the metal. So the final part of the treatment will be to create a working collaboration with the mount makers in the museum to create a really solid mount for display and travel and hopefully storage when it comes back to the museum
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