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Carving report restoration of 1735 richard bridge pipe organ

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A case study of an organ-case carvings's restoration project, the document is written by the restorer, more information can be available: LaurentSculpture@mail.com

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Carving report restoration of 1735 richard bridge pipe organ

  1. 1. Laurent Robert Wood carver and Cabinet Maker info@laurentrobert-carving.com Introduction In 1735 Richard Bridge built his masterpiece organ for Christ Church Spitalfields. Despite the near derelict condition of the building by the mid-twentieth century, the organ and its casework, although in need of restoration had survived, a testament to the skills and talents of the Georgian craftsmen. Thanks to the perseverance and unwavering commitment of the Friends of Christ Church Spitalfields and William Drake, the organ was restored to its original splendour and grace, ensuring its legacy for generations to come. The following report is a review of the restoration process of the organ casework, detailing the step by step process of restoring the pipe shades, hats, carved serpentine panels and mouldings, the friezes and the carved flats. This work was undertaken by Laurent Robert at the William Drake organ building workshop over a period of eighteen months. It was a unique experience to participate in the restoration of the organ and a privilege to walk behind the steps of those great builders to whom we dedicate our gratitude.
  2. 2. Carving Restoration report of the Richard Bridge organ-case 1735 at Christ Church Spitalfields Restored and written by Laurent Robert Carved serpentine cornices with pipe shades Tower caps Pipe shades Cushion and tassels Flat inverted pipe shades Carved serpentine panels Cornices, friezes, soffit Laurent Robert 2015 1
  3. 3. Crown, Cushion, Tassel Above the central tower, the crown bordered with ermine is sitting on a cushion from where four tassels are suspended from each corner. The square based pedestal is ogee-shaped and supports the regalia. Five Black- tipped-tails (5) and a tassel (1) were made new in lime wood. 5 1 1 Laurent Robert 2015 2
  4. 4. Tower caps cornices Dismantling of the hats, finding and gathering the pieces The fragmented mouldings were collected from the scaffolding. Sections were found on the top of the organ which was covered with a thick layer of dust. Other sections were found in a cardboard box, inside the organ. All the factors listed below helped to reinstate the fragments to their original positions: -thickness measurements, -the appearance of the wood, -sun bleached areas, -dry aspects, rich deep colour, -speckles of paint from previous restorations -building dust set onto the wood, -glue seams. Laurent Robert 20153
  5. 5. Tower caps: fixing and gluing up clamping device In order to hold tight and maintain the pieces to each other, a method of clamping was designed, making it easy to deal with curved profiles. Each section was treated individually, hot hide glue was brushed onto the contact surfaces and were made good when necessary, 3mm diameter pegs were drilled into position for the pieces to meet together flush. Progress of assembling : Treble (right) tower cornice Laurent Robert 2015 4
  6. 6. Progress of assembling : middle tower cornice Repairs of return mouldings The middle tower cornice retains all the original sections of mouldings. Laurent Robert 20155
  7. 7. Progress of assembling : Bass(left) tower cornice, carving The mahogany in use for repairs was sourced from a piece of Georgian furniture which gave the possibility to select the matching grain of the organ case. Waterleaf motifs were carved linking up with the original one. Straight runs of moulding were made for the sides of the hat by using moulding planes. Cornices are held in place with blocks and brass screws, gaps were sealed using band strips of canvas and hide glue. Laurent Robert 20156
  8. 8. Bass tower Treble tower Note the positioning of (B and T) pipe shades in relation to the stiles. B T 1 Laurent Robert 2015 7
  9. 9. Richard Bridge would have planned the manufacturing of the front pipes in their locations. The joiners/cabinet makers built the organ case, the decorated carvings were made separately by carvers to fit the cabinet work. As pointed out on page 7, the pipe shades (in all three towers) were fixed skewed onto their stiles (upright). By removing the pipe shades away from the hats and uprights, here is what was noticed : -the width of the carvings were narrower at their top and wider at their base. -the paint and varnish finishes left onto the uprights indicated how skewed the carvings were when fixed into their original positions. -the back side of the carvings were left as bare wood opposed to their decorated side which were coated by many layers of paint, this had an effect onto how the carvings dried in the church. Looking at the designing of the case which did not include the necessary space for the carvings leaving the carvers no other choice than to adapt to the situation by nailing the carvings in how we see it now. As a result, tensions in the wood were created leading to the carvings to break apart (see 1), also the organ builders would have had limited space to lift the front pipes in and out into each tower for gilding and voicing purposes. Condition of the pipe shades (page 3,8,9,10,11,12,13,14) Laurent Robert 2015 8
  10. 10. Trial test prior of paint stripping Paint stripping method Here are the middle tower pipe shades shown as an example of how the lime wood pierced work was treated, after selecting the glue joints to treat just before paint removal. Strips of tape (A) were applied in order to delimitate where the poultice stripper would take effect (10 or 15 mm away from seam). 5 mm of stripping paste was built up then sealed with a protective film (B) and left untouched until the paint started to melt. A B The excesses of paint (C) were removed using hard bristle brushes and water (with neutraliser) C Laurent Robert 2015 9
  11. 11. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 a 1 2 3 5 9 4 7 6 a 8 Pipe shades of middle tower, preparation for reassembly Laurent Robert 201510
  12. 12. Pipe shades of middle tower, preparation for reassembly The carved lime wood is a least 284 years old, as is the glue used for joining the boards together. By construction, the hats were more stable and less likely to change in size or shape like the pipe shades did; for their reassembly, templates were made and copied from each hat cross section. This ensured a good starting point in the reconstruction of the pierced work. The pieces were assembled loosely without any adhesive, the gaps were measured and filled with lime wood veneer made of various thicknesses. Small pegs were fabricated then drilled into the edges of the joints, making the repositioning of the pieces steadier. Animal hide glue (pearl glue) was left to soak in water, then heated for use, the surfaces were first moistened before being glued and fastened with sturdy strings. Wedges of various sizes were used to regulate the tensions of the joints. Pieces of leather were placed around the joints to form contact points and to protect the carving. Final adjustments happened on the scaffolding when presenting the pipe shades in their towers. Making adjustments from scaffolding Laurent Robert 201511
  13. 13. Middle tower pipe shades (side right) a 7 65 4 3 2 1 b a b c c d d 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Looking from inside Laurent Robert 2015 12
  14. 14. 7 6 8 8 7 6 5 4 4 5 3 3 2 2 1 1 Middle tower pipe shades (side left) Laurent Robert 201513
  15. 15. Treble tower pipe shades (right side) 3 3 4 4 5 5 6 2 6 1 1 2 c d a c d b b a Looking from inside Laurent Robert 201514
  16. 16. Treble(right) tower pipe shades (side left) d c d a c e e a Looking from inside Laurent Robert 201515
  17. 17. Bass(left) tower pipe shades (right side) a 3 3 1 1 2 2 a 2’ c b b 1’ c 2’ 1’ front back Laurent Robert 2015 16
  18. 18. Carved serpentine cornices, bass and treble These cornices are made of mahogany, acanthus leaves are carved into the ogees, pictures left and below, are showing the various stages when gluing the sections back together. Rosette ornaments are used throughout the Church: under the arcades ceilings and organ gallery. Bass serpentine (left) Treble serpentine (right) Laurent Robert 2015 17
  19. 19. Serpentine pipe shades Treble side (right) 1 2 1 2 3 3 The 3 pieces of carvings are of lime wood ( 1,2,3) they were found on the roof of the organ, laying in the dust. One of the fragments (3) presented a rosette flower as an ornamental feature, the edges were angled, nail holes were visible. I located the position of (3) by searching for nail holes and tide lines on the upper casework where the serpentines are fixed. Items ( 1,2,3) were then labelled for reconstruction in workshop. 4 5 6 7 67 5 5,6,7 were fixed and positioned onto their serpentine fixing boards, (2) was added then (3) was held in place with nails allowing (4) to be designed and carved. Lime wood pipe shade Laurent Robert 201518
  20. 20. Serpentine pipe shades Bass side (left) With the reconstruction of the treble serpentine pipe shade completed, a drawing was copied from the treble side, then a mirror image drawing was made allowing for the making of the missing winding part (bass) of the pipe shade. Winding part of the pipe shade Laurent Robert 201519
  21. 21. Flat inverted pipe shades, Bass (left) 1 The pipe shades are lime wood and the groundwork serpentine panels onto which they are fixed (square nails) are mahogany . The thickness of the pipe shades is a third of the serpentine panels. Structural and atmospheric conditions combined with the two situations mentioned above causing the pipe shades to split. Once the panels were glued back in place, the scrolling acanthus foliage carvings were reassembled using strips of veneer to compensate for wood shrinkage, the panels (2) were used as clamping supports, the back of the carvings (1) were primed with hide glue onto which a layer of canvas was applied. (1)(2) Laurent Robert 201520 Square nail
  22. 22. Flat inverted pipe shades, Treble (right) 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 In chronological order from 1 to 9 Laurent Robert 2015 21
  23. 23. Carved Serpentine panels, description (pages 23,24) The panels can be divided into three groups: - Two knotted ribbons ending with a pair of tassels: (tulip buds, wheat ears (2,4) , closed and open pea pods (1), leaves (2,4,1)). - Two bouquets of flowers, one has a rose (1) as a central element: (lily buds (5,3), wheat ears (5,3) pea pods (1,2), acanthus leaves (5,3), sunflower (7,8), open and closed pea pods (1,2)). - A musical trophy: ( violin (6), bass recorder, baroque trumpet (5), oboe (7)). The serpentine panels are representing the floral and musical taste of 1735. One can admire this through the eyes of the carvers who captured a scene. The presence of nature, delicately arranged, is materialized into bouquets of flowers and ribbons, in the middle lays a musical trophy, the harmony of forms and sounds are combined. Laurent Robert 2015 22
  24. 24. Serpentine panel, Treble (right) 8 2 1 3 5 6 7 4 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 Laurent Robert 2015 23
  25. 25. Serpentine panel, Bass 9. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. a. 8.7. 7. 6. 5. 4. 3. 2. 1.8. 9. a. Serpentine panel Bass (left) Laurent Robert 201524
  26. 26. d d 1 1 Middle section g g New carved waterleaf cornice Fixing of treble cornice Repair of frieze a b m j s Laurent Robert 201525
  27. 27. Middle section includes: (a) cornice (page 25) (b) soffit (page 27) (c) frieze (page 28,29) (d) corbels (page 25) A waterleaf carved cornice of mahogany (a) is projecting the shape of the full horizontal cross-section of the double serpentine organ case. Below each tower (bass and treble) are two winged cherub heads(d) looking across the church. An acanthus carved cul-de-lampe (d) placed on the same level as the cherubs forms the base of the middle tower. Underneath the serpentine carved cornice are fixed a pair of roses embellishing the soffit (b). A carved rinceaux frieze work (c) runs from the cherubs towards the cul-de-lampe. Bordering the top of the frieze stands an acanthus carved ogee moulding alternating with scallop shells, the combined ornaments crown the corbels. Description Cornices are made of layers of thick veneer which were then carved. On the bass side (left) a section was missing (m). A solid piece of mahogany (a) was selected, carved and reinstated. The curved multi-layered cornices were then glued again. For the treble (right) serpentine cornice, wooden blocks (j) were cut to shape in the church, and used as clamping tools to glue the veneer. Strips of linen were soaked in glue then applied onto the back of the cornices (s) for strengthening. Two small sections of frieze (g) were repaired in the church, the longest sections (page 28,29) were restored in workshop using the same methods as described in page 11. Repairing cornices and friezes, page 25,28,29 Laurent Robert 2015 26
  28. 28. Soffit, above the organ console Looking up from where the organist sits on the bench, one can notice that part of a flower and its new sprig are missing. The bell shaped flower was carved out of lime wood in situ , the rest of the foliages were completed in this way as well. After applying the new elements back onto the soffit area, the painters decorated the repairs. Laurent Robert 2015 27
  29. 29. Middle section, Frieze, Treble (right) 3 86 7 4 2 5 1 81 2 3 4 5 6 7 Laurent Robert 201528
  30. 30. Middle section, Frieze, Bass (left) 41 2 6 5 3 2 1 4 3 65 Laurent Robert 201529
  31. 31. Crown, Cushion, Tassel ....................................................................................................... 2 Tower caps cornices............................................................................................................ 3 Tower caps: fixing and gluing up......................................................................................... 4 Condition of the pipe shades............................................................................................. 8 Paint stripping method....................................................................................................... 9 Pipe shades of middle tower, preparation for reassembly................................................. 10,11 Middle tower pipe shades (side right)................................................................................ 12 Treble (right) tower pipe shades (side left)........................................................................ 15 Bass tower and Treble tower /before and after................................................................. 7 Progress of assembling : Bass (left) tower cornice, carving Middle tower pipe shades (side left).................................................................................. 13 Progress of assembling : middle tower cornice................................................................... 5 ............................................. 6 TABLE OF CONTENTS Treble tower pipe shades (right side)................................................................................. 14 Laurent Robert 2015
  32. 32. Serpentine pipe shades Bass side (left)............................................................................... 19 Serpentine pipe shades Treble side (right).......................................................................... 18 Flat inverted pipe shades, Bass (left)................................................................................... 20 Flat inverted pipe shades, Treble (right)............................................................................. 21 Serpentine panel, Treble (right).......................................................................................... 23 Serpentine panel, Bass (left)................................................................................................ 24 Carved Serpentine panels, description............................................................................... 22 Carved serpentine cornices, bass and treble....................................................................... 17 Middle section..................................................................................................................... 26,25 Soffit, above the organ console........................................................................................... 27 Middle section, Frieze, Treble (right)................................................................................... 28 Middle section, Frieze, Bass (left)........................................................................................ 29 Bass (left) tower pipe shades (side right)............................................................................ 16 Laurent Robert 2015

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