The Duchess Anna Amalia Library, Weimar, Germany

Plaster busts from the Duchess Anna Amalia Library, Weimar

The Duchess Anna Amalia Library (Herzogin Anna Amalia Bibliothek) owns many very high quality plaster busts, some of which are exhibited in the historic reading room. They were saved on the night of the fire of 2 September, 2004, along with the books, manuscripts and paintings. As with nearly all of the rescued objects, the busts were also very damaged, not only from the water used to extinguish the fire but also from the salvage operation itself.

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In 2007, Restaurierung am Oberbaum (RAO) were contracted to undertake the restoration of 15 busts in total, some of which included Goethe, Schiller, Beethoven, Tieck, Alighieri and Tasso. The busts ranged between 50 and 95 cm in height. All busts had been repainted multiple times which meant the fine intricacy of the sculptural details was frequently compromised. The plan was to remove the overcoats completely and present the busts in their raw material state, bare plaster, in other words. All the missing areas would be remade and integrated into the original object as seamlessly as possible. Sometimes the bases were broken and had to be reset. It was very important to conduct thorough trial-runs before removing the coats of paint. We removed the paint with a special paste which could still be adapted to the individual condition of each specific bust, and which was able to simultaneously dissolve the paint and bind it into the paste. Once the paste had dried and reached a certain consistency, it could be removed. The paste allowed us to remove the overcoats entirely and without impact to the plaster’s surface. In doing so, previous restoration work on the busts emerged. The plaster had been repaired with putties and adhesives, lending it a fairly unsatisfactory aesthetic appearance. All putty was removed and replaced.

Client and Conception:

Dr. Aurelia Badde, Berlin
(for Klassik Stiftung Weimar – The Duchess Anna Amalia Library Weimar)

Publication
Jörg Breitenfeldt, Aurelia Badde, Rolf Kriesten, Über die Reinigung von Gipsoberflächen, in: Handbuch der Oberflächenreinigung. Verlag Dr. Christian Müller‐Straten, München 2011