The Lute Player – Repairing the Belt



Nowhere was Besarel’s virtuosity as a woodcarving sculptor more evident than in his rendering of the belt.  This was all done with extreme delicacy as it was not only all short grain but also sculpted with a void from the torso in one six-inch stretch.  It should be no surprise that the area had been broken numerous times, and when I encountered the sculpture the broken belt section was merely nailed to the torso and a small section of the loop was missing altogether.

To address this damage I embarked down a path that was entirely consistent with my conservatorial principles even though it might strike you as odd.  I disassembled the damaged area and tacked the pieces back together with hot hide glue.  This was entirely inadequate for the structural integrity of the object.  Its only purpose was to provide fixed alignment for the elements.


To impart the necessary structural support I needed to augment the area, yet I did not want to “contaminate” it nor spend a lifetime executing something exotic.  Instead I backed the damaged area with a material that was not only rheologically sympathetic but also even more stable longevity-wise than the wood — linen rag paper.  I took a piece of 60-lb rag paper and cut it to the right size for the repair, then tinted it with gauche.


I slathered hot hide glue on the paper, slipped it behind the affected area, and slid some mylar and packed cotton wadding underneath that to provide complete contact with the verso of the damaged belt.  (Yes I know it is a lousy picture, my camera was in the process of self-euthanization)

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After the glue set over night I removed the wadding and the mylar barrier sheet, and stood back to assess the results.  I was not displeased.  It fits the furniture conservator’s “Six Foot, Six Inch Rule'” in that it is visually harmonious and not glaringly visible at standard viewing distance but readily apparent at close examination.  Invisible repairs are rarely my goal, structural robustness and aggregate aesthetic integration are what I am shooting for.