H. de Roos - Towards a catalog of the Maclaren collection

A discussion with Gary Arseneau and Dr David Schaff (9)

Patination From The Air And Other Technical Indications Of Age

In this letter, Dr David Schaff valued Curator Mary Reid´s assessment of the physical age of the plasters as "an important finding which verifies the age of the plasters beyond comparison and politics".

Since this promised to be the much-needed evidence for the MacLaren´s claim "that the majority of these works, especially in importance, date from the artist's lifetime", 
I decided to ask additional information on this issue:

P.S.: Maybe you can say a word or two on the "recent conservation" as far as relevant to dating the plasters?

[P.S. to a letter to Mary Reid, 4 Dec. 2001]

In her return message, Mary Reid confirmed her opinion on the age of the plasters, but acknowledged to be no technical expert on the physical processes involved:


I will have Elizabeth Zimnica send you a copy of the conservation report if you would like it but all I can say is that the works had significant (amounts) of grime and dirt and dust that had built up over a number of years with evidence of old cracks, chips and fissures.

In addition the circular rusty orange stains on most of the works is a result of the iron armature rusting and bleeding out to the surface. The iron armature is rusting because the plasters have seeming been exposed to an environment with a relative high humidity level above 35%.
Over time the plasters take on the mositure in the air and when the plaster reaches a certian saturation level the moisture finally reaches the iron and it begins to rust and then bleed out.

Now I am no expert on the rate of the rusting of iron and moisture absorption of plaster but I am sure that the stains that appear on our plasters did not happen overnight and must have taken many many years to occur.

[From: Letter from Mary Reid to the author, 6 Dec. 2001]

But still I was not convinced this judgement would safely exclude the possibility such plasters were made only after 1917.




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